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To share your life with a companion animal is to truly experience unconditional love and whether that pet dies, is lost or stolen, or placed in a new home, the end of that relationship can be devastating and one of the most difficult times in a person’s life.” In fact, psychologists recognize that the grief suffered by pet owners after the loss of a beloved pet is the same as that experienced after the loss of a person.
But all too often, when someone experiences the loss of a beloved animal friend, well-meaning family members and friends try to help by minimizing the pet owner’s feelings. They may say, “it’s just an animal” or “just go get another one.” It is important to remember that animal friends provide a love and acceptance that is unique and often irreplaceable.
Family, friends and society don’t always understand how drastically the loss of a pet affects us. They sometimes find it difficult to support the grief we feel. The Houston SPCA's Pet Loss Support Group provides a safe, supportive environment where thoughts and emotions can be shared with those of similar circumstances and feelings of grief are understood and validated. Our Pet Loss Support Group is facilitated by Kevin A. Lofton, NCC, LPC a licensed professional counselor specializing in grief, loss and crisis counseling and meets the first Tuesday of every month at 6:00 pm in the conference room at the shelter, 900 Portway Drive, Houston, TX 77024.
Kevin is the president of All In The Past Counseling Services and has provided counseling services as an employee or a contractor for several agencies and facilities including Intracare North Hospital, Texana Center, Lutheran Social Services of the South, Inner Wisdom Counseling Centers and Family Time Foundation. He also has teaching experience in Fort Bend ISD, Lamar Consolidated ISD and Harris County Department of Education. He is licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-Supervisor) by the Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. He is Certified as a National Certified Counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors an he is also certified as a School Counselor by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification. He has experience in helping individuals from childhood through adulthood, couples, families and groups. Kevin also loves animals and is a Houston SPCA sponsor.
Tips for Coping with the Loss of a Pet
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Grieving is your mind and body’s natural way to help you heal from your loss. Allow yourself to cry to express your loss; it will make you feel better faster. Talking to others or writing your thoughts and feelings on paper also helps people to express their losses and to heal. Grieving is natural and very healthy.
Accept Help from Others
Help and support from others will ease the pain that you are feeling. People and pets have an amazing capacity to heal each other. Take their help, it will make you and them feel better. Sometimes it is normal for other people in your household to feel numb after a losing a pet, so they may not know to offer you help; ask them for their help because it will help them to reconnect with people. It will make you and them feel better. Help other people when you have the strength to do so, it will make you feel better.
Set Up a Memorial to Honor Your Loss
Memorials honor your pets and help you to remember them in a healthy way. Some people memorialize pets by using photographs or doing things like dedicating a special tree in their honor. Make a memorial that feels right for you and honors your pet. Memorials really help.
Set Up a Safe, Quiet, and Warm Place for You to Heal
Create a sanctuary like place for yourself while you heal. The place should be quiet and comfortable so that you can reflect and grieve in a place where you feel safe. Use calming and healing items there such as candles, religious items, heirlooms, and other items that will give peace and strength. When you heal you will know when the time is right to return this space back to its regular purpose.
Trust Yourself that You Will Heal
Never give up hope. Healing is within every single person. You will discover strengths in yourself that you never knew you had. Just take it one day at a time and you will get there. Healing will take time and effort, but it always happens.
Assess If You Can Cope With This on Your Own
Think of an imaginary stress meter with a scale from 1 to 10. Think of a score of 1 equaling no stress at all and a 10 equaling the most stress that you could ever imagine. Be honest and rate your stress level. If you scored a 1, 2, or 3 you are doing well and can probably handle the stress on your own. If you score a 4, 5, or 6 you would benefit from talking with a friend or family member who really cares about you. If you score a 7, 8, 9, or 10 you are in crisis and should seek help from a counselor immediately. You will be surprised as to how quickly you can lower your stress level if you ask someone to help you.
This document or any part of it may not be reproduced for profit without Dr. Genac’s written permission. Reproducing this document or parts of it for non-profit reasons is permissible without permission when Dr. Genac is credited as the author. © David S. Genac, Ph.D., 2005
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