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Overcoming grief with a pet loss counsellor on The Mummy Toolbox

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…

Cathy - Pet Loss Counsellor - Dealing with Grief - The Mummy Toolbox
Cathy 🙂

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.

Remus - Dealing with pet loss grief - The Mummy Toolbox
Remus <3

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 Cathy pet loss counsellor on Pet Bereavementelderly, 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 – Cathy Pet Loss counsellor on Pet Bereavementintense 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

Cathy Pet Loss Counsellor on pet bereavement 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!

Have you had to deal with Pet Loss Bereavement? How did you deal with it?

Overcoming Grief with a pet loss councellor, see what she had to say about dealing with this difficult time.

15 comments on “Overcoming Grief With A Pet Loss Counsellor”

  1. I’m glad I read this article. One of my cats (Lucky) died suddenly last month due to a type of lymphoma. I never knew he had it so I was not expecting him to pass. He was 13 years old. After he passed the

    I’m glad I read this article. One of my cats (Lucky) died suddenly last month due to a type of lymphoma. I never knew he had it so I was not expecting him to pass. He was 13 years old.

    Doc did an examination and found a mass in his intestines and a couple nodles on his liver and that’s how I found out Lucky had lymphoma. The Doctor said that when cats get this type of lymphoma, they usually only live a few weeks after. So they die quickly from this. I hate that I couldn’t help him, and that I was blindsided by this. I always thought that he would live to be at least 18 like my last cat did. I miss him dearly.

  2. It’s so upsetting when the family pet passes away. I think it’s so important to let people grieve & not to feel like they shouldn’t. The death of a pet is like the death of a family member. Lovely interview & quote. It’s lovely to have you linked up this week x

  3. This is such a great post and such a positive idea. We have nearly always had a pet but the loss of our last one effected me so much, that I took some persuading to get our lovely black lab. Without doubt, the grief of losing my pet is a real as that of losing a family member for me. Thank you for raising awareness xx

  4. Great post on such a sad topic. Having lost two family cats over the years I found it very difficult with the loss,it still hurts when I think of them. The love we shared with Winnie and Keilner will never be forgotten. They were our family. Thanks for sharing X

  5. Hi Charlotte, I think the whole idea of being able to get grief counselling for the loss of a pet is wonderful. We’ve been lucky and not lost too many pets, our two dogs were old, so it was easier to accept, but in both cases I wanted to be with them at the end and they were put to sleep at home (getting a tear thinking about it).

    We have lost a couple of the not-so-feral-anymore kittens to the dogs next door and that did make me angry, even though I know it wasn’t either creatures fault really. We have done what we can to make them safe, but they are not indoor cats.

    I never understand why someone would say it’s only a dog, cat, rabbit or whatever as for one that doesn’t help. And secondly if you don’t own a pet (which obviously they don’t), don’t say anything.

    I do really feel for old people who lose their pets, it must be devastating and so difficult to get over. I am glad there are people like Cathy around to help.


    • I completely agree – i definitely see mine as my kids and I try to protect them as such, whenever they take a bit longer to come home in the evening I worry!

  6. I have always had pets yet it never makes it any easier when another one dies. We recently lost 2 dogs within 7 months of each other and the pain will be there for a long time to come. However, what I say to people (and myself) is that whilst your pet is no longer there with you, their memories will never go away. That is their special gift they leave with us.

    Thank you so much for adding this very informative post to #AnimalTales and may it be a long time before any of us have to deal with any more pet losses.

  7. Great interview, I had not idea that pet death counsellors existed. I can understand why though especially with the elderly! We have a cat and I know I will be devastated when we loose him, Monkey’s nursery has lost a guinea pig recently and its really affected him. Thanks for joining us at #BloggerClubUK

  8. This is a great interview! We do get so attached to our pets, they are non-judgemental and they give love, always. Much more than the humans in our lives, they are so special. We lost our baby with the fur and tail, Rosie, 1.5 years ago, and we still miss her each day. She did so much for all of us. One day we will get a new puppy, but it’s not quite time yet. We’re still grieving.

  9. Great post – I think even pet owners can underestimate how much the loss of a pet can affect you until you actually experience it. When our family dog died I was 17 and she’d been a member of our family since I was 5. I was devastated. It’s a very real loss. #BloggerClubUK

  10. The last statement really hit it on the nail. I had been frightened of dogs till I was about 35. And then my husband brought home a puppy and I had to get over my fear. Since then it has been a whole new life for me. I never imagined how much love I could have for a dog. My life has been enriched beyond measure.

  11. Thank you for this! I have lost pets over the years and have faced reactions from “It’s just a cat!” to beautiful bouquets of flowers. There are still plenty of people out there who don’t recognize losing a pet as “legitimate” grief and I am ever so grateful for the ones who do.

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