What is pet bereavement counselling and how do you know if you need it? 

Losing a beloved pet can feel like losing a part of yourself. The pain, the emptiness, the overwhelming sadness—it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that can leave you feeling lost and alone.  

If you’re experiencing this rollercoaster, you may be wondering if pet bereavement counselling could help you navigate this difficult journey.  

Let’s explore what pet bereavement counselling is, how to recognise if you might need it, and other ways to find comfort and healing amidst the grief. 

What is pet bereavement counselling? 

Pet bereavement counselling is a specialised form of counselling (a ‘talk therapy’ where you talk to a trained professional about your emotions or problems) aimed at helping individuals cope with the deep grief and emotional turmoil that comes with losing a cherished animal companion.  

In these counselling sessions, trained professional counsellors or therapists provide a safe and understanding space for you to express your feelings, process your grief, and find ways to move forward. 

Pet bereavement counselling services may be available over the phone, online, or in-person, depending on the individual counsellor or service provider. 

Some counselling services focus exclusively on pet bereavement, while others look at bereavement more broadly, recognising that loss is loss, whatever form it takes. 

Counsellors and therapists are usually qualified and/or certified mental health professionals with the expertise to help you manage your grief through the more structured process of counselling. 

This is a step on from seeking support from trained volunteers through a service such as the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Helpline (more about this below) or through a peer support group such as The Ralph Site. 

Many bereaved people benefit from support, but not everyone needs the more formal support provided by counselling. 

Would you benefit from pet bereavement counselling?

You might be wondering if you could benefit from pet bereavement counselling.  

Many experts say that you should give yourself time after a bereavement before seeking professional support. In the first days, weeks, and months, you will find that your emotions feel very raw, and getting through the day can be challenging. This is completely natural. 

With time, you may find that your grief starts to co-exist with other thoughts and feelings, sometimes in the foreground and sometimes taking more of a back seat.   

One key indicator that you might need counselling is the intensity and duration of your grief. It’s normal to feel profound sadness – as well as a wide range of other emotions – after losing a pet, but if those feelings linger and interfere with your daily life, counselling could be a helpful option.  

Feeling overwhelmed by guilt or regret, struggling to cope with your responsibilities, or feeling isolated in your grief are all signs that reaching out for support might be a good idea. 

Some research suggests that counselling can be a good option for anyone who is experiencing high levels of grief-related distress six months after their bereavement. 

But remember, pet bereavement counselling isn’t the only way forward.  

Grieving is a deeply personal journey, and what works for one person may not work for another. Perhaps you need to find comfort in the support of friends and family or connect with others who have experienced similar losses through support groups or online communities. 

Other ways to manage pet loss grief

Engaging in creative outlets can be incredibly healing. Whether it’s writing about your feelings in a journal (here are 50 prompts to help you get started), creating artwork, or participating in rituals to honour your pet’s memory, these acts can provide a sense of acceptance and connection.   

You may find that spending time in nature, practicing mindfulness, or volunteering at an animal shelter are also ways to find moments of peace and purpose amidst the pain. 

And let’s not forget the bond you share with your remaining pets if you have them. They can offer unconditional love, companionship, and comfort during this difficult time. Simply being in their presence can remind you that you’re not alone in your grief. 

Self-care is important  

Taking care of yourself is essential as you navigate the grieving process. Remember to eat nourishing foods, get enough rest, and engage in activities that bring you joy and comfort. Practice self-compassion and allow yourself to experience and express your emotions without judgement. 

Grieving is a process that can be extremely difficult at times, but it’s also part of life, which means we tend to be surprisingly well-equipped to journey through it, given enough time.

Where to find pet bereavement support or counselling 

If you believe that you would benefit from pet bereavement support of some kind, your next step is to explore the services available to you. 

For those of you based in the UK, you might want to contact the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service. This offers a free and confidential helpline, web chat or email support. Trained volunteers provide empathetic listening and support to help anyone navigate their grief. However, these volunteers are not qualified counsellors. 

The Ralph Site itself was created to be a place of support and reassurance. Although we’re not able to offer our own pet bereavement counsellors, many people find that talking to other bereaved pet carers in our private Facebook group gives them the space and emotional support that they need to eventually move forward. 

If you have decided to seek counselling you may find a suitably qualified counsellor or therapist via the Counselling Directory. Again, this is a UK-based service. If you are outside of the UK, Google and other search engines are a great starting point to find pet bereavement counsellors near your location. We also have some details of pet bereavement counsellors here on The Ralph Site that you may want to explore further. Some veterinary practices can also provide recommendations for local counselling services that specialise in this area. It’s worth reaching out to your vet to enquire about available support options. 

Do what feels right for you 

Ultimately, the decision to pursue pet bereavement counselling is yours to make. If you feel like it could be beneficial, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. But know that there are other paths to healing as well.  

Whether you choose counselling, support groups, creative outlets, or simply spending time with your loved ones and furry friends, the important thing is to honour your feelings and find what works best for you. 

By exploring different avenues of support and practicing self-care, you can navigate grief with compassion and resilience. Healing is possible, and you don’t have to face it alone. 

Shailen and The Ralph Site team 
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support 

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