Sunday, February 14, 2010

Time to Grieve

The one thing I wanted the first few months after Molly's death, besides having Molly back, was someone to talk to about my feelings and how to deal with all the emotions I was feeling. I searched the Internet for sites that dealt with the loss of a pet and bereavement and I came across a website called the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement. The APLB provides listings of local support groups and counselors across the United States, counseling center hotlines, information on how to help children deal with the loss of a pet and chatrooms that are managed by specially trained pet bereavement counselors. Their website is

As I searched through the list of counselors provided by the APLB Teresa Freeman’s, LIMHP, LMHP, NCC blurb got my attention, not just because I liked her approach to dealing with pet loss and bereavement but because I read she started a pet loss support group at the Nebraska Human Society. She seemed like a professional and caring individual.

As I mentioned in an earlier post Teresa agreed to answer my questions regarding pet loss and bereavement. Instead of posting her interview in one long post, I'm going to break my Q&A interview with Teresa into several posts. This week's post deals with grief and its timetable and how to begin to deal with your grief after a pet dies.

When someone loses a beloved pet, how long should they give themselves to grieve?

In general, there is no specific timetable for grief. It takes its own course and varies from person to person. There is a general ebb and flow through the various stages of grief and they many not occur in a consecutive pattern. Pet grief is no different in this way, and a person can expect to experience the stages of grief in the same way as any other significant loss.

Allowing yourself time to grieve is important. Don’t try to go back to a normal routine to quickly, allow for the process. Try to listen to the body and heart and don’t discount the need for time to resolve this grief.

The warning signs of a complicated grief include suicidal thoughts or clinical depression or anxiety. These can best be assessed by a mental health professional and require further intervention. Most people however, will move the grief within a reasonable amount of time. Again, help from a mental health professional is advised if the intensity or duration of the grief symptoms persist or increase, or if there are suicidal or symptoms of clinical depression.

(The stages of grief are discussed in a post titled "Stages of Grief" posted on 2-09-10)

How do you begin to deal with your grief after the death of a pet?

When our pet dies, we can feel completely out of control, overwhelmed by jumbled feelings of loss and failure. This is often accompanied by a sense of deep, personal guilt, confusion and vulnerability and the pain is so real it must not be belittled or discounted by anyone, including the mourner.

Acknowledging the intense feelings of loss is critical for the pet owner who has lost a pet. Validation and understanding is vitally important, as is talking about one’s loss and feelings. Expressing thoughts and emotions and sharing them with compassionate people is also a necessary step in the passage through bereavement.

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