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A Beloved Pet's Death Can Trigger Deep Grief. Finding Support Can Be Tough

By Cara Murez HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Anyone who’s ever loved a pet like a member of the family knows that the grief when that dog, cat or other furry friend dies can be devastating.

But too often, finding others who truly understand and support that sense of loss can be challenging.

Michelle Crossley, a mental health counselor, and Colleen Rolland, a pet loss grief specialist, have each experienced deep bereavement after losing a much-loved pet.

They also see value in helping others whose animal friend has died.

Together, they’ve written a paper on the issue, published Nov. 25 in Human-Animal Interactions.

Rolland is a pet loss grief specialist for the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) and has a small private practice in Ontario, Canada. She said her own loss of a beloved Golden Retriever left her “in a puddle on the floor.”

It also motivated her to help others through their grief, which is how she came to be the president of APLB about three years ago.

“I would love for the human-animal bond and the love that people feel for their animals to become more accepted by society as a whole,” Rolland said about her hopes for this paper.

“For that segment of the population that just don’t ‘get it,’ I would love for them to nod their head and go, ‘OK. It is a big deal for those people.’ And accept it and take away the stigma that is attached to pet loss and the grief that somebody feels over the death of their pet,” she explained. (continued)

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Overcoming the social stigma of losing a pet: Considerations for counseling professionals

By Michelle Kay Crossley and Colleen Rolland

During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals found themselves spending more time with their pets and relied on them to maintain normalcy and provide security during isolation. Pets play a significant role in the lives of their caregivers, taking on different attachment roles depending on the needs of the individual. Grieving the death of a pet continues to be disenfranchised in society. Perceptions of judgment can lead individuals to grieve the loss without social support. The present review builds on research in the field of pet loss and human bereavement and factors in the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on human-animal attachment A goal of the present review is to provide counselors with perspectives to consider in their practice when working with clients who have attachments to their companion animals and to acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of working through the grief process to resolution as a way to continue the bond with a deceased pet. (continued)

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This Is the Healthy Way to Cope With Pet Loss

By The Frenshe Editors

On a purely rational level, most of us understand that the cute puppy or kitten we adopt will someday be an older pet who will reach its end of life. And yet, that knowledge does little to lessen our pain when it’s finally time to say goodbye. Losing a pet can stir up strong emotions including grief, guilt, anger, shock, denial, and depression.

“Processing the grief is tough. It’s a roller coaster of emotions,” says Colleen Rolland, the president of The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, a nonprofit organization that supports people through pet loss. But, she adds, it is possible to reach a point where your pet brings up fond memories: “The last stage of the grieving process is resolution—when you can think about your beloved pet that has died and you can smile, laugh, and remember them with joy.” Here, Rolland shares her advice on coping with pet loss.

Acknowledge your feelings

First, understand that feeling grief may not be pleasant, but it’s a normal and healthy response to losing a creature you love. “People who are profoundly bonded to their pets view that animal companion as a member of the family,” says Rolland. “They are not just an animal, they’re part of that family unit.” So don’t judge your feelings; let yourself experience them. (continued)

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