What is Grief Counseling?
Grief is the natural emotional response to the loss of someone or something that is treasured or loved. The degree to which we feel pain and sorrow over the loss often determines the depth and duration of our grief.
The work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified the bereavement stages pertaining to human death, but because of the unique and complex relationship that exists between a cherished pet and human companion, a different standard for pet bereavement came to be established. The stages of pet bereavement, while not necessarily sequential, are:
Shock and denial
Anger, alienation and distancing
Resolution vs. Closure
Understanding the stages with the help of a counselor normalizes the trauma and minimizes the more frightening aspect of loss, pain and change.
One of the myths about pet loss bereavement is that time will cure the pain of loss. Not true. The reality is that the pain remains with us forever—to a lesser degree—but “there is no cure.” On the other hand, the happy memories also stay with us.
The work of a grief counselor is to assure the client that the grief process is normal and natural, guide the client through the process at the client’s pace, and help the client re-frame the experience into a healthier “story.”
Counseling vs. Therapy
“Understanding what you are going through helps ease the pain when you lose a pet,” states Dr. Wallace Sife, Ph.D., internationally-renowned expert on pet loss grief and bereavement. Counseling seeks to explain things clearly, simplify a client’s perceptions so that they can be more easily dealt with, develop appropriate strategies and maintain a sharp focus on the presenting problems.
Pet bereavement is a “rite of passage,” not a pathology that requires continuous therapy.
Counseling is problem or issue-driven. 2-3 sessions with a counselor are sufficient. Psychological therapy deals with all the problems of the psyche and may require months or even years of treatment. Sometimes the loss of a pet is so epic that it can trigger unresolved, debilitating emotional issues from the past that are beyond the counselor’s legal or professional parameters to treat. Under these circumstances a client will be referred to a therapist or psychologist for further care.
A pet becomes a basic part of the human companion’s experience and psyche. When that pet dies, it forces the close of one stage in the owner’s life and the beginning of the next stage. Navigating ones way alone through these stages while handling the emotional trauma at the same time is often too challenging and delays the healing process unnecessarily. Counseling supports and empowers you to see the experience from a bigger perspective and begin the journey of moving forward.
What makes me different as a Pet Loss & Bereavement Counselor?
First of all, I have been through the experience of the death of many pets many times. I UNDERSTAND what it is like and how it feels, especially when well-meaning friends and family say, “It’s just a dog.” Or, “It’s just a rabbit.” Even if your beloved pet is a snake or a goldfish, I UNDERSTAND and share your values regarding your pet.
I also studied with Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Founder and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition, and adopted the “Companioning” approach he developed to grief counseling. A companion is someone you share a meal with, a friend or equal. To companion someone in bereavement means to walk alongside to the wilderness of the soul with them. It means being present to another’s pain but not being responsible for “fixing” or taking away the pain; listening with the heart and honoring the spirit; and respecting the disorder and confusion that comes with change.
These are some of the tenets I practice when you schedule a counseling session with me.
How to Schedule an Appointment
Initial consultations by telephone are free and available on a first-come, first serve basis. (Of course, donations are always cheerfully accepted). Use the contact form on this website to arrange for an appointment, briefly describe the situation, and let me know the best time to reach you.