Those of us who have shared our lives with a much-loved animal friend carry the experience with us forever. Just as we can find joy in the memories of happy times shared together, the pain of saying goodbye is also indelibly stamped on our hearts, and for many Christmas can be a particularly difficult time.
Sometimes the visceral pain of our grief is almost too much to bear, and so it can be helpful to share your thoughts and feelings with someone who understands. You may have sympathetic friends or family who have lost their own pets, and talking over how you feel with them will provide some small comfort. However, if you feel there is nobody you can share the contents of your heart and mind with, you may find contacting an experienced Pet Bereavement Counsellor helpful. These dedicated professionals can be found across the UK, so you’ll be able to find a non-judgemental and sympathetic ear close by. A list of some Pet Bereavement Counsellors can be found on The Ralph Site.
(Please note that whilst we provide details for your convenience, we are unable to directly endorse or recommend these individual services, and you may also wish to research other alternatives to suit your own preferences and requirements.)
In addition, there is plenty of support and advice to be found in the Counselling Directory, the UK’s largest database of registered professional counsellors. Here you’ll find answers to any questions you may have about how counselling works, and which type of approach might be best for you. You can also search for bereavement counsellors near where you live. Find the Counselling Directory here.
As you may know, the Blue Cross provides an excellent (and free) pet bereavement support service, run by trained volunteers who have been through tough times themselves:
- To chat to someone who understands, simply call 0800 096 6606 free from a landline (please be aware that some mobile networks may charge). The helpline is open every day from 8.30am to 8.30pm.
- Sometimes, it’s easier to write about how you are feeling rather than talking to someone – so if that’s the case, you can also access the charity’s support via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Find out more about the service here.
Please don’t ever feel that you should be able to cope on your own; there is no need to suffer in silence. Each of us needs someone to share our thoughts and feelings with sometimes, and without acknowledging and expressing the pain we feel we may simply be storing up future problems. According to Mind, an estimated 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health issue each year, and bereavement is widely acknowledged to be one of the most traumatic times we go through. Well-meaning friends may tell you that “it’s only a dog” and encourage you to get another one – not everyone understands the deep bond that we form with our pets. You will know when, indeed if, the time is right to bring another animal into your life, and it will never be to replace an old friend, rather to make a new one.
Until next time, very best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support