Grieving the loss of a pet? Counselling may help

Senior Couple Grief CounselingBy April Clay, Registered Psychologist

If you have experienced the death of a pet, you may be finding it very difficult to adjust to the many changes in your life. This kind of loss can leave you feeling shaken up, lost and misunderstood.

It’s important to respect your loss just like any other. Although not everyone in your life may understand your feelings, there will be those that will be able to offer support. Take care to seek out those in your circle who have compassion for your experience. Develop a “go to” circle of people or seek out a grief support group or a counsellor.

Bereavement is the time we spend adjusting to loss. There is no set time limit and no wrong or right way to feel. Everyone must forge his or her own path, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Grief can manifest in a multitude of ways. Some people get angry, some withdraw and some experience numbness. Sometimes, grief can turn into something more serious, like depression. Many signs of grief resemble those of depression. It is perfectly normal to cry, experience changes in sleep and appetite. Most people report experiencing “waves” that come and go throughout their process. However, if you begin to notice persistence in and worsening of symptoms it may be time to seek out another form of support.

Signs that grief has turned into depression may include:

  • Persistent feelings of guilt
  • Persistent and disruptive changes in sleep and appetite
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Persistent changes in mood, motivation and energy
  • Difficulty carrying out everyday responsibilities
  • Thoughts of self harm or suicide

If your grief has begun to take a more complicated turn, you may also notice yourself engaging in behaviours foreign to your personality such as:

  • You find yourself beginning to drink or use other substances more than usual in order to numb emotional pain.
  • You are acting out your feelings with others, and having a negative impact on relationships.

Counselling can help provide support during the grief process and ward off the risk of depression taking root. If you are concerned, seek out the assistance of a qualified therapist. The person you speak with should have experience with grief counselling along with an understanding of the special issues pet loss can include. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you need to before booking an appointment. Get the right fit for you, and make sure you’re comfortable with the person that will assist you in your healing.

—April Clay is a registered psychologist and offers counselling and sport consultation services. Visit www.bodymindmotion.com for more info.