If you are in the midst of the immense heartbreak of saying goodbye to a beloved pet, please know that you are not alone and there are supports out there that can help.
Here are some options to consider. It’s important that you find what feels right for you.
When reading about pet loss, it is just you and the page. This can be a way to hear the stories of others’ experiences without any pressure to share your own. You can gain information about pet loss and the grief process, as well as specific strategies that you might find helpful. There are so many books out there, I won’t even try to list them all, but one excellent place to start is Dr. Wallace Sife’s book “The Loss of a Pet: A Guide to Coping with the Grieving Process When a Pet Dies.” I also really like Enid Traisman’s “My Pet Remembrance Journal.”
2. Websites and blogs:
There are many websites and blogs out there with information about pet loss. Some websites also have online forums where you can connect with others who are also grieving. You can find information about grief, as well as additional reading material resources or strategies for healing. Two popular sites are the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) and Rainbow Bridge, and there are many more.
3. Phone support:
Phone support is also an option. There are several pet loss helplines available, often times run by veterinary teaching institutions. You can call to talk to someone and get some initial support for what you are experiencing, and often they can connect you to additional support and resources as well. Rainbow Bridge’s website has this listing of Pet Loss Helplines.
4. Pet Loss Support Groups:
Attending a pet loss support group can be a wonderful way to feel the support of others who truly understand what you are going through. VetVine is hosting online Pet Loss Support Groups. You can also see if there is a pet loss support group in your area by looking on The Pet Loss Support Page by state listings, asking your veterinarian, asking your local animal shelter, or contacting a pet loss helpline.
Counseling is also an option and can be really helpful in getting more individualized support. When you’re looking for a counselor, it’s important to know that everyday people (who are not mental health professionals) can go through some pet loss counseling trainings (like through Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement) and then offer pet loss counseling. These counselors are not offering psychotherapy and it’s a good idea to clarify or confirm this if you speak with them. Mental health professionals (who hold degrees and licenses in psychology, counseling, social work, or marriage and family therapy) also offer pet loss counseling.
Be informed of what kind of support you are looking for and ask questions about what kind of training the pet loss counselor has done.
To find referrals to pet loss counselors in your area, you can look at pet loss websites to see if they have referral listings, The Pet Loss Support Page has listings by state, you can call a pet loss helpline, you can call University of Tennessee and ask for referrals to a Veterinary Social Worker in your area, or you can look at Psychology Today for a therapist with a focus on grief and loss. And if you are already seeing a therapist, you can ask if pet loss is an area they work with.
6. Friends and Family:
It’s such a gift when family and friends understand what you are going through and can offer you the support you need. Not everyone can or will be able to do that. So it’s okay to take care of yourself by accepting the support that you feel is helpful and letting any support that is not helpful, just roll on by. Even with wonderful support from those dear to you, you still may find it’s helpful to look into these other pet loss support options as well.
Kristin Buller is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Certificate in Veterinary Social Work. Kristin lives in Chicago with her husband and their dog, Ruby. For more information on Kristin, visit www.kristinbuller.com.