Why Should I Join A Pet Loss Support Group?

Many of us find ourselves feeling alone and unsupported when a beloved pet dies. It isn’t that we don’t have family and friends in our lives, although oftentimes we may not. People who care about us want the very best for us and have a difficult time seeing us suffer. They may say insensitive things to us. (“It’s only a cat/dog!” “You can always get another one.” “You have another pet already.” “Isn’t it time you got on with your life?”) They feel an urgency to move us through our grief. They are uncomfortable with us. They think they are being helpful, but they have no idea of the impact those words have on us. Our pets are our children, our soul-mates and our loves.  Hopefully, no one would dare say that to someone who has lost a human child.

At a time like this, we need to be seen and heard and allowed to express our grief in a supportive and comforting environment without the need to take care of others’ discomfort. We need people around us who “speak our language” and “get” what we are saying and feeling.  Finding a Pet Loss Support Group is a wonderful prescription for healing what ails us, for in the presence of a skilled facilitator and other grieving pet parents, we can find the assistance we need to travel on this journey from grief to healing and from devastation to renewal. Our broken hearts will mend. We need the reassurance of others who have traveled on this road and can attest to the ability of the heart to regenerate and love again.

Some of the basic principles of a Support Group are:

           1. To help members accept the reality of their loss

          2. To help members recognize and express their feelings in a safe & supportive environment.

          3. To help members readjust to their loss and learn to live without their pet

          4. To encourage members to arrive at a healthy resolution and to feel comfortable in reinvesting their energy and emotions in new relationships in time

          5. To allow members time they need to grieve

          6. To help members understand and interpret normal grief behaviors

          7. To help members understand that everyone experiences grief differently

Some of the benefits of a Support Group are:

        1. Group Members develop a sense of connection with others who have similar problems

        2. They have the opportunity to help each other

        3. They can obtain hope from seeing others who have overcome their problems

        4. They can model their behavior on members who are successfully coping

        5. They can receive unconditional acceptance and feelings of belonging

        6. They can learn how to move on in their lives and learn to live without their pet

We recommend interviewing several counselors/therapists and seeing with whom you feel the most connection and comfort. You will want to know that they are pet lovers and understand this particular type of loss. Not everyone does. We hope you’re fortunate enough to have some choices in your area. (If not, please go to www.aplb.org and join us on our online support chat rooms. They are held 6 days-a-week. You can also find listings for counselors and support groups there.)

There are many people who are uncomfortable in a group setting and prefer to seek individual counseling. A group may not be right for you, but if you feel you can risk trying one, it is definitely worth the effort. There is no right or wrong choice. Seeking support is the important thing. In doing so, no matter which type of support you choose, you will begin the journey towards healing and keeping your beloved fur-baby and the love you shared tucked safely in your heart forever.


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