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People mourning the death of their pets often struggle to find support

The research has the aim of ending stigma associated with pet mourning.

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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

People mourning their pets often struggle to find support, according to a new study.

While empathy may come more naturally when discussing human loss, researchers found that society can sometimes lack awareness of how great the pain can be following the death of a beloved pet.

Without support and compassion, people can feel embarrassed by their grief and struggle to heal and move on.

Researchers show that by understanding the grief process of pet owners, counsellors can create non-judgmental spaces where clients can feel open to display their grief.

Through receiving empathy and support, people are more likely to share their feelings with their community, helping them get past their grief.

It can also lead to society becoming more compassionate towards those who have lost a pet.

The grief caused by losing a precious pooch or a cute cat can be even greater since the COVID-19 pandemic. For many, during lockdown, their pet was their one source of interaction and companionship.

Dr. Michelle Crossley, an assistant professor at Rhode Island College, Owner and Counsellor at Michelle Crossley Counselling, and co-author of the study, said: “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 counsellors with perspectives to consider in their practice when working with clients who have attachments to their companion animals.

“It also aims to acknowledge the therapeutic benefits of working through the grief process to resolution as a way to continue the bond with a deceased pet.”

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The research has the aim of ending stigma associated with pet mourning and indicating to counsellors that they should consider different factors that impact how people may mourn the death of a pet.

Colleen Rolland, president and pet loss grief specialist for the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, and co-author of the study, said: “When relationships are not valued by society, individuals are more likely to experience disenfranchised grief after a loss that cannot be resolved and may become complicated grief.

“The major goals of this review are to provide counsellors with an aspect to consider in their therapeutic work with clients dealing with grief and loss and present different factors that may impact how one grieves the loss of a pet.

“It also discusses considerations for counselling that can be utilized to foster a supportive and non-judgmental space where clients’ expressions of grief are validated.”

People need a safe space to discuss their loss where they feel supported and understood. This could be done through group counselling sessions online or in person.

Counsellors can also support children and adults by providing them with supplies and the space to paint, draw, or use figures to draw out their anxieties and fears about the loss.

Dr. Crossley added: “When an individual loses a pet, it can be a traumatic experience, especially given the strength of attachment, the role the pet played in the life of the individual, as well as the circumstances and type of loss.

“Giving a voice to individuals grieving a disenfranchised loss is one way in which counsellors can help clients through pet loss.

“It is also important to integrate pet loss work into counselling interventions and coping strategies that are already being used in the therapeutic space.”

The study was published in the journal, Human-Animal Interactions.

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