Counselling Advice FAQ: Pet Bereavement

By EssentialsMAG mental health & well-being contributor KIM PATEL

Barney has been with me every day for the last 16 years. He has made me laugh and gave me a reason to get up every morning. My beloved dog died over six months ago and I am devastated. My family say I shouldn’t be feeling this way as he was only a dog, and to get another dog to get over it. Is it normal to still feel sad and to miss him?

Barney was a huge part of your life for a very long time, and so it’s therefore not surprising that you are still struggling and missing him. The grief that we feel in death is merely a reflection of the love that we felt in life.

You may be finding his death difficult because he gave your life meaning and purpose, and you had a deep connection/relationship with him. What we feel is what we feel, and there is no right or wrong involved.

How we travel through experiences of bereavement will be different for each individual; however what we do know is that the grief and sorrow that we experience are in some way related to the depth of relationship we had in life. So for example, the death of a distant aunt that you saw maybe 12 times during her lifetime, would not have as big an impact on you as the death of an aunt that you saw every week.

So for me, there is no difference between a grief response for a human or a pet, as it’s about the quality of relationship that you have experienced together. Some individuals will find it useful to keep things in sight such as a water bowl or a lead/collar as this brings comfort. For others seeing those everyday items may just be too painful. There is no right or wrong way to experience grief, and we have moved a long way from the Victorian idea of grief having a timescale of a year and a day… It takes as long as it takes.

In order to move through grief however, counsellors and mindfulness teachers agree that we need to feel the whole myriad of emotions that come with it. This may include and is not limited to: sadness, anger, denial, guilt.

Speaking to a therapist may be useful as they can help you explore all your feelings without judgement.

EssentialsMAG mental health & well-being contributor is Kim Patel from Ebb & Flow Counselling

Tel: 07530 553 983

Victoria Lee