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Counselors advised to take the loss of their client's pets as seriously as the death of family members

The report also mentions how pets have been a great support for people during the pandemic.

Counselors advised to take the loss of their client's pets as seriously as the death of family members
Family with dying dog - stock photo | Getty Images - Justin Paget

Pet owners always consider pets as part of the family - be it a cat, dog, rabbit, or hamster. They spend so much time with them playing, understanding their emotions, and even having conversations with them. So, when it comes to their death, pet owners have a hard time dealing with it. However, many people in professional and social settings are unable to understand this bereavement. So, to deal with this issue, a report called, "Overcoming the social stigma of losing a pet: Considerations for counseling professionals" was published. It is co-authored by  Dr. Michelle Kay Crossley. Assistant Professor at Rhode Island College, and Colleen Rolland, President and pet loss grief specialist for Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, as reported by My Modern Met.

The Lonely Dog Lay Down On The Ground/Getty Images
The Lonely Dog Lay Down On The Ground/Getty Images


It speaks about the importance of recognizing grief in patients and providing a safe space to deal with it. The report states, “While empathy may come more naturally when discussing human loss, there are other types of loss that are not acknowledged or given a similar amount of attention by society. Grief due to these socially unendorsed losses is referred to as disenfranchised grief and can include death by suicide, a lost pregnancy/miscarriage, and death from AIDS, in addition to the death of a pet.”

Getty Images | harpazo_hope
Getty Images | harpazo_hope


The co-authors also write about the harm that disregarding the loss of a pet can cause to a patient. It states, “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.” 

Their advice to the counselors is to "recognize their own biases" when it comes to these sorts of losses. They add, “A counselor can cause more pain to the client by not understanding or honoring the depth of the bond shared between the client and the pet. The distress that one can experience secondary to the loss of a companion animal can be intense, and it is critical to serving these clients in the same manner that we would have had they been grieving the loss of a human.”

The article also mentions how pets were a huge support for pet owners during the pandemic. It is said that the number of pet adoptions increased as more people were working from home and animals were a source of comfort for many. 

However, before the pandemic as well many households owned a pet. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2018 “57% of households owned a pet with 66% owning more than one companion animal. Of the individuals surveyed, approximately 80% consider their pets to be family members, 17% consider them to be a companion and only 3% consider them property.”



Basically, the report points out to counselors to empathize in case of a pet loss in the same way as a human loss. The report states, "Giving a voice to individuals grieving a disenfranchised loss is one way in which counselors can help clients through pet loss." “It is also important to integrate pet loss work into counseling interventions and coping strategies that are already being used in the therapeutic space.”

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