Helping people cope with the grief of losing a pet: podcast from Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show

The grief after losing a pet was the focus of this week’s podcast which you can listen to by clicking the play button below.

On Sunday June 23rd, the first ever (non-denominational) Pet Remembrance Service was held in Dublin, at the Unitarian Church off St Stephen’s Green, following a similar service held at Belfast Castle on Sunday June 9. Bereaved pet owners came on their own or in small groups, holding mementoes of their pets, including photos, favoured dog toys, cremations urns containing ashes, and aging dog collars. The service included poems slideshows, music and silent reflection. I took along a large photograph of my own family dog, Spot (pictured above) who died around five years ago.
The service provided a much-needed emotional outlet for many bereaved pet owners, and he hopes it is the first of an annual occasion.
The grief is a necessary part of saying goodbye to the pet, and it is a direct reflection of the love for the pet. In that way, the grief is positive. But at the same time, it can be very upsetting for everyone involved.

Grief is the other side of the coin

Although the end of a pet’s life can be very distressing, it is important to remember that having and looking after a pet is an enjoyable experience.
• We enjoy sharing our lives with pet animals. 
• Pets can become our best friends and we often begin to regard them as “part of our family”. 
• Many studies have demonstrated the numerous beneficial effects of pet-keeping on human physical and mental health. 

Pet owners need to take control of the end of their pets’ lives

  • The decision to euthanize one’s pet can be difficult and occurs at a very distressing time
  • Vets are used to having this type of discussion with pet owners
  • Pets cannot express the fact that they are in pain, so owners need to allow for this when making decisions on allowing them to continue to live – or not.

The grief when losing a pet is under-acknowledged

Our culture does not give enough space to the concept of grief at losing a pet.

  • For a pet, you may be given some sympathy on the first day, but people seem to expect you to move on far more rapidly than is fair. 
  • There are now pet bereavement counsellors to help people come to terms with their sadness at the loss of a pet. Most vet clinics are aware of this type of help in their own localities, if you ever feel that it’s needed. Indeed, sometimes the staff at the vet clinic can be helpful even just to share a few words. Often, they may have known you and your pet very well, and they are likely to understand some of your emotions and worries. 
  • There is an online pet bereavement service run by a UK-based charity 

Questions from listeners about pets

The following questions were asked on air and you can hear Pete’s answers in the podcast.

  • We have two Bichons, one is four and the other is a few months old, and the older one is quite aggressive when people or bikes go by. She barks a lot. How can we calm her down?
  • I have an old Collie cross dog who has started collapsing on his back legs. How can he be helped?

You can listen to the podcast by pressing the play button below.

Listen to the podcast:

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