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Pet loss is something I have been fortunate not to deal with much, however, I know a lot of people who have and I am constantly reminded about the harsh realities of having pets (especially with cats who go outside).
I thought it was important to consider how to deal with the grief of losing a beloved pet and so I approached Cathy to ask her some questions I always wanted to know, about what a Pet Bereavement Counsellor does and to approach the issue of pet loss grief from someone who not only helps others but has gone through it herself.
Hopefully this might help you or someone you know who is going through this or something similar.
Everything in “Purple” are my questions and comments, everything else is Cathy!
Over to her…
A bit About Cathy
My name is Cathy D Griffiths, Registered Member MBACP, FdA Counselling, specialist in Bereavement and Trauma Counselling – and doting pet parent to three beautiful black pussycats!
How did you get started?
I became a counsellor after experiencing many close human losses in my own family. While I was rebuilding my life after grief, I began to volunteer with: Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide and also Cruse Bereavement Care. I received a great deal of knowledge and training through my volunteer work, which enabled me to become a better therapist. I loved supporting grieving people and helping them cope with their grief. I loved my volunteer work so much, I decided to train as a qualified counsellor. A few years later I graduated with a degree in counselling. I even did my professional counselling hours in the NHS bereavement service, which is the best place to train as a Professional Bereavement Counsellor.
What prompted you to go into pet loss counseling?
I chose to become a Pet Loss Bereavement Counsellor after losing my precious grey cat – Remus. Even though I had lost my parents and siblings and numerous other relatives, nothing prepared me for the grief of losing my cat – it was completely different to my human losses. My princess went out exploring one day, jumped in the back of a van and disappeared. She went missing for nearly 4 weeks and was hit by a car while trying to find her way home, the driver couldn’t be bothered to stop. Fortunately her body was complete, the shock of the bump must have killed her, but despite my relentless searching, I couldn’t find her in time. I followed up some false leads and they came to nothing. I nearly went out of my mind with grief, and even though there was nothing I could do to save her, I still blamed myself for not protecting her and for not getting her home safe.
What is a Pet Loss Grievance councilor ?
A Pet Loss counsellor is a normal therapist who specialises in counselling pet lovers who are grieving for the loss of their beloved pets – pet loss grief applies to missing pets as well as deceased pets
What is your role in others’ lives?
As a counsellor, it is my role to assist clients to work on their problems/concerns in safe, ethical and supportive way, without judgement and with lots of sympathy, respect and genuineness. I do not tell clients what to do or think or give advice. I believe the client is an expert on themselves and they know what is helpful and what isn’t. I also help the client develop coping mechanisms to deal with the loss of the loved one. I think it’s very important for clients to grieve in whatever way they need to and for however long they need to grieve. Grief is so personal and unique, it differs from person to person.
How does pet loss grief differ from other types of loss?
Many pet lovers have described the loss of a pet as worse than a human loss (definitely the case for me) For many people, particularly the elderly, the loss of a pet can feel like the end of the world – especially if the pet is the only companion that person has. Everyone reacts differently – some pet owners are hysterical and sobbing and others are calm and resilient – depends on the relationship with the pet – we are all different. There are also other factors to consider: if the pet is put to sleep, died of old age, died very young, accidental death, RTC, cruelty etc.
All these situations will have an effect on the way the loved ones grieve and each situation has it’s own different issues to deal with – for e.g. if our pets have died through accident/cruelty, there is an overwhelming feeling of rage and anger and a desire for revenge towards the individual(s) responsible for our pet’s death
How is it the same?
With pet loss we experience a lot of the same grief reactions that we would with human loss: anger, guilt, blame, intense grief, sobbing etc. If the pet has met a violent end, quite often the human loved one may feel traumatized – especially if the human loved one has witnessed the death. There are many of the same feelings of loss between pet/human death – intense yearning and longing to see, hold, the loved one. The constant heartache, the intense sadness, feeling completely lost and not knowing what to do with yourself.
What general advice can you give those who have experienced a pet loss?
Talk to people who love animals, especially those who have lost pets, they will understand your pain. Avoid those people who say “it’s only a dog, cat, horse, rabbit etc. Those people don’t get it and they’ll be completely unsupportive of your grief. It is okay to cry and it’s okay to miss your pets, you will grieve for as long as you need to, everyone is different so be kind to yourself. Reading books on pet loss can be helpful, so can support groups – there are some on Facebook I believe?
What services do you specifically offer? and How can potential clients get in touch?
I offer telephone, online and mobile sessions and they can get in contact via mobile and email. All my contact details are on my website Petlosscounsellorwales.co.uk
What makes losing a pet so difficult?
Everything about our pets is unique; it is so hard to lose our pets because they can’t tell us when they are ill, we can’t tell them to stay away from roads and we can’t warn them about the nasty people in this world. Our pets are innocent and vulnerable, very much like children. Quite often we project parental feelings on our pets and start treating them like our kids. We usually spend more time with our pets that we do with human loved ones. Pets love us unconditionally and they bring so much joy and happiness – pets are little angels in animal bodies – no wonder we grieve so intensely for our animal babies.
How do you respond to those who’s attitude is “it’s only a cat(or pet)” etc?
It’s only a cat or dog? I say that a human being hasn’t really known love until they’ve been loved by an animal.
I couldn’t agree more!