Pet Bereavement


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Companion animals have been demonstrated to play significant roles in the lives of their owners in many American households. More then half of the homes in the United States have at least one companion animal and more than 85% of per owners regard them as family members (American Veterinary Medical Association [AVMA], 2012). Unfortunately, many pets have shorter life spans then humans and because of that it is inevitable that many owners will also experience the death of a pet.

This presentation was created as part of my Masters program at Friends University. ]

I did include a bit of a personal touch on how moving on from the loss of one pet can lead to saving the life of another...

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Pet Bereavement

  1. 1. PET BEREAVEMENT Sarah Newcomer
  2. 2. More then half of the homes in the United States have at least one companion animal and more than 85% of pet owners regard them as family members…
  3. 3. …and when their beloved pet passes, many view it as though they have lost a member of their family…
  4. 4. “The trauma with the loss of a pet has been shown to be one of the most difficult times in a person’s life, and can create a grief reaction that is many ways comparable to that of the loss of a family member…” (Clements, P., Benasutti K., & Carmone, A., 2003)
  5. 5. …and owners can experience pet loss in ways other then a pet’s passing… Losing the pet Sudden Evacuation Unable to keep
  6. 6. Bereaving Owners/Families may experience: Profound Sadness Emptiness & LongingBitterness Intrusive thoughts/memories of pet Denial These feelings of grief can be felt for up to and longer then 6 months at a time.and are sometimes displayed through disruption in routine, diet changes, sleeping changes, social isolation, and missing work.
  7. 7. But, in society, the loss of a pet is often considered an “undervalued grief”.
  8. 8. The grief is seen as unacceptable and needs to be quickly overcome, because pet-human relationships are not human-human relationships.
  9. 9. But We can help Support Owners… •Acknowledge to bereaving owners that it is ok for them to grieve. •Listen and learn the role a pet plays in the owner’s/family life. •Understand the owner/family may have lost a crucial support system. •Validating, acceptance, and support prevents internalizing and disenfranchisement of grief.
  10. 10. Encourage Finding Support Support groups provide social support and helps create relationships with individuals who are experiencing the same emotions. Pet Loss Support Groups & Organizations can be found online and in cities across Canada/US
  11. 11. Facilitate coping methods that honor the loss of their beloved companion… Host a funeral for the petShare stories Donate to an Animal Shelter to help others in their memory Make a scrapbook Plant a tree in their honorAfter some time of mourning has passed owners may wish to get another pet…
  12. 12. References • Adrian, J., Deliramich, A., & Frueh B. (2009) Complicated grief and posttraumatic stress disorder in human’s response to the death of pets/animals. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 73(3), 176-187. • American Humane Association (2012). Pet Statistics. Retrieved from • American Veterinary Medical Association (2012). U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics. Retrieved from Research • Clements, P., Benasutti K., & Carmone, A. (2003). Support for bereaved owners of pets. Perspectives in psychiatric care, 39(2), 49-54. • Coradro, M (2012). Pet loss and disenfranchised grief: implications for mental health counseling practice. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 34(4), 283-294. • Haug, S., Sedway J., & Kordy H. (2008) Group processes and process evaluations in a new treatment setting: inpatient group psychotherapy followed by internet- chat aftercare groups. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 58(1), 35- 53. • Scheidlinger, S. (2004) Group psychotherapy and related helping groups today: an overview. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 58(3), 265-280. • Watt-Aldredge, L (2005). Pet loss and the role of the psychologist: needs assessment and implications for interventions. (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (UMI Number: 3170148) • Walsh, F. (2009) Human-animal bonds II: the role of pets in family systems and family therapy. Family Process, 48(4), 481-499.
  13. 13. In 2010 I decided to hospice a boney 8-10 year old pitbull from a HSUS fighting ring raid…rescues did not want him due to his age and health making him harder to adopt. If I did not take him he would be euthanized.
  14. 14. This is him now…