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Pet Bereavement Support: Loss and Grief
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Pet Bereavement Support: Loss and Grief

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When somebody loses someone that is significant in their life they suffer a bereavement. This extends very much to the animals in our lives and for some people losing a pet can be more traumatic......

When somebody loses someone that is significant in their life they suffer a bereavement. This extends very much to the animals in our lives and for some people losing a pet can be more traumatic and upsetting than losing a fellow human being. For every person loss and grief can present an individual and unique experience. These slides accompanied a 1 hour webinar looking at how loss and grief can effect different people - the physical, mental, emotional and social reactions and implications that can be experienced during the grieving process.

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  • Welcome to the first in a series of 6 webinars looking at Pet Bereavement Support
  • My name is Julia Dando and I work for The Society for Companion Animal Studies
  • There will be opportunity later for you to share some experiences of your own. You can do this by using the chat box but preferably if you have a microphone I can give you the floor and we will be able to hear from you. I can see which of you have microphones enabled so we will see how that goes when we get to the relevant part of the session.
  • children of different ages will relate to companion animals differently according to how they conceptualise them, a pet may be like a sibling or a best friend to a child; very young children will be unable to conceptualise the permanence of death; for mid-life pet owners the death of a pony they had from being a teenager can also represent the end of an era and the passage of time; for older people a companion animal may literally be their life-line and the effects of pet loss can be felt at multiple levels. Remember we talked last time about the human-animal bond and how other factors in a person’s life will have a profound affect on the bond they have with their pets and how they are affected by the loss of their pet. The presence of other co-existing losses, past loss history and current personal circumstances. Personal vulnerability factors include being recently bereaved, experiencing developmental life transitions (eg going through puberty or the menopause/andropause), living alone, being child-free, being out of work, having additional physical needs or emotional health difficulties (eg chronic mental illness, additional needs arising from restricted mobility). sudden death is usually always difficult to accept because it is such a shock; accidental death can be traumatic, eg road traffic accidents (RTAs) can be very distressing to witness (sounds, sights and smells) creating more lasting traumatic memories; enforced separations (eg mandatory euthanasia of a dog under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991) can leave an owner feeling powerless and guilty; some acute medical conditions (eg gastric torsion also known as bloat in dogs or Parvo infection in pups) may be fatal within a few hours; a complicated euthanasia (eg where the vet is unable to raise a vein or the animal struggles) can also have a profound effect on the owner’s grieving process.
  • Originally there were five well-known stages of grief as suggested by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross ' book, " On Death and Dying ." Over last few decades these have really stuck but have been moulded a little – we’re suggesting 5 or 6 stages here but the important thing to remember is that there really is not set plan – it can happen in order, out of order, not at all or everything at once. It will be a personal and unique experience for everyone.
  • experiencing physical symptoms similar to those observed in the animal prior to death
  • experiencing physical symptoms similar to those observed in the animal prior to death
  • Pet loss can disenfranchised by nature Whilst pets are family for closely bonded owners, there are other people perhaps non-pet owners (but NOT always) and others who have a more functional attitude towards companion animals, who will not recognise pet loss as being a significant loss. Pet loss remains unrecognised in society as a bereavement: There is generally no compassionate leave from work in relation to pet loss There are no socially accepted ways of mourning deceased pets, eg pet funerals can be a source of ridicule, amusement and amazement in the media Other people may not respond in a compassionate way, but could merely dismiss a grieving pet owner by suggesting they get another animal (considering the animal as replaceable property)
  • Pet loss can disenfranchised by nature - Whilst pets are family for closely bonded owners, there are other people perhaps non-pet owners (but NOT always) and others who have a more functional attitude towards companion animals, who will not recognise pet loss as being a significant loss. Pet loss remains unrecognised in society as a bereavement: eg pet funerals can be a source of ridicule, amusement and amazement in the media (considering the animal as replaceable property)
  • Lindemann first coined the term in his research circa 1944. Can be seen as: A journey towards the ultimate loss, but is composed of adjusting to the many losses, of the past, present and future. Most associated with death (a chronic illness perhaps) but we should not forget other types of loss will have similar affects on people. Those who were at last week’s webinar will remember the video of Angelo and Simon and the distress that Angelo was going through at the thought of having to give up his beloved Simon. Stop / go – planning for the death and after-death is like admitting there is no hope. Giving up on our loved one. Coping with the effects of an illness……seeing the animal’s demise and feeling helpless, changes in behaviour (an animal may become aggressive which in itself will be distressing for the owner) Small losses along the way as well as the final big loss. Rando (1986) talks of the past, present and future losses of Anticipatory grief. Periods of denial/new hope – followed by more grief when there is a new episode or stage towards the end. This can make people shut down emotionally – they may appear cold or uncaring – they may notice this themselves and then feel confused and guilty about it.
  • Question their motivation for the euthanasia, eg was it selfishly motivated or an act of selflessness based on the animal’s needs? Experience doubt with regard to the timing and appropriateness of euthanasia, even in the face of obvious suffering/terminal decline Feel guilty rather than responsible in relation to the euthanasia Feelings of guilt , a grieving owner’s sense of being deserving of other people’s support and understanding, they therefore have periods of feeling intensely alone ; this is magnified by them feeling alone with the weight of their responsibility for the euthanasia; when these feelings of guilt change back to acceptance of personal responsibility, owners feel supported , they are able to see that making a decision about euthanasia was in partnership with their veterinary surgeon (they did not make this decision alone, but on clinical advice) and their sense of having a right to seek out support as a legitimate griever increases
  • http://www.scas.org.uk/2899/Pet-BereavementSupportWebinarSeries.html The Pet Bereavement Support Service has been giving free emotional support to those who may have lost a pet or have been effected by the loss of a pet since 1994.  Open every day from 8.30am - 8.30pm the team of volunteers provide a vital port of call for those in need.  This 30 min session looks at the work of the PBSS and the impact that it has had of the lives of many over the years. Whether you work in a veterinary practice, a rehoming or rescue centre, or maybe just know someone that is struggling due to the loss of a pet, this 1 hour session looks at some of the ways that you can provide support.  Knowing what to say can be the biggest worry for people who are in a position where emotional support is needed.  We will be taking a look at "active listening skills" and other tools and skills that can be helpful. There are lots of things that you can do to make things easier for everyone when there is a loss of a pet.  This 1 hour session looks at what you can do in practice to make things easier for clients, colleagues, friends, family and yourself when you are involved with providing support for those experiencing the loss of a pet.
  • http://www.scas.org.uk/2899/Pet-BereavementSupportWebinarSeries.html

Transcript

  • 1. Welcome to thePet Bereavement Support Webinar Series from Webinar 3 of 6: Pet Bereavement Support: Loss and Grief
  • 2. Welcome to thePet Bereavement Support Webinar Series from With Julia Dando MA – Training Manager, SCAS
  • 3. Pet Bereavement Support: Loss and Grief What will we be looking at today?• Terminology• Factors that may affect severity of grief• How grief affects people – the stages and responses• Anticipatory grief and responsibility grief
  • 4. Pet Bereavement Support: Loss and Grief Terminology• Bereavement = the loss of a significant other in one’s life• Grief = a set of normal responses to loss, it incorporates physical and psychological, emotional and cognitive responses• Anticipatory Grief = Experiencing grief before the actual loss• Responsibility grief = Where the grief has additional aspects derived from “making the decision” or “Doing the deed”.• Complicated Grief = A prolonged grief where the process appears to have become stuck – can continue for months or years
  • 5. Grief and Loss Factors that can shape grief in relation to pet loss• Age and life-stage• Context of the loss, life circumstances and individual vulnerability.• The circumstances of the loss
  • 6. Personal patterns and processes Stages of grief • Numbing / shock / denial • Anger / yearning / searching • Bargaining • Despair / Depression • Acceptance / ClosureNot linear but chaotic
  • 7. How grief affects people Physical Thinking (cognitive) Psychological Social
  • 8. Grief and Loss Physical Reactions• Insomnia (not sleeping)• Tiredness / lethargy• Crying / sobbing out loud• Diarrhoea / vomiting• Agitation (inability to sit still – wringing hands)• Muscle tension / Increased heart rate• Somatising – converting psychological distress into very real physical symptoms.
  • 9. How grief affects people Physical Thinking (cognitive) Psychological Social
  • 10. Grief and Loss Thinking (Cognitive)• Blame – self, vet, others including the animal for getting ill• Information seeking – about the medical condition• Thinking about the animal and talking about the animal, “processing out”• Reliving the event of the death• Inability to concentrate/focus
  • 11. How grief affects people Physical Thinking (cognitive) Psychological Social
  • 12. Grief and Loss Emotional / Psychological• Sadness• Depression – extreme and overwhelming sadness• Shock• Anger• Denial• Guilt• Feelings of doubt in relation to making a decision (eg euthanasia or rehoming) and the appropriateness of the timing of the event
  • 13. How grief affects people Physical Thinking (cognitive) Psychological Social
  • 14. Grief and Loss Social• Temporary increased dependency or withdrawal from others• Feeling isolated and alone• Loss of identity• Need to take some time off work• Loss of membership of social group
  • 15. Disenfranchised Loss• There is generally no compassionate leave from work in relation to pet loss,• There are no socially accepted ways of mourning deceased pets,• Other people may not respond in a compassionate way, but could merely dismiss a grieving pet owner by suggesting they get another animal.
  • 16. Grief and LossTime to share some experiences of grief in relation to pet loss. How did you feel emotionally and physically? What did you do? What helped? What didn’t? Did you find people supportive around you? How did the circumstances of the loss affect you?
  • 17. Anticipatory Grief • Stop/go (planning v giving up hope) • Coping with the effects of an illness • Very difficult living in a state of angst • Stress / anxiety / depression / PTSD People may need as much support before as they do after the loss
  • 18. Responsibility Grief•Questioning their own motivations•Doubt•Guilt  (Responsibility)•Relief => Regret•Undeserving of support => Alone•Trivialise their own feelings
  • 19. Pet Bereavement Support Webinar SeriesWebinar 4: Introducing the Pet Bereavement Support Service (Free)Wednesday 28th March 2012 @ 1pmWebinar 5: Pet Bereavement and providing support for peopleWednesday 18th April 2012 @ 1pmWebinar 6: Pet Bereavement Support and developing protocolsWednesday 25th April 2012 @ 1pm
  • 20. Thank you for your attention Webinar 4An introduction to the Pet Bereavement Support ServiceWednesday 28th March 2012 @ 1pm