Grieving the Loss of a Pet with Your Therapist

by Sharyn Rose Sunday, November 25, 2012

gray cat pet loss grieving

How much do your personal feelings about animals affect the way in which you are authentically able to be with someone grieving the loss of their pet? How does your past inform your present? Whether it be a sibling's allergies, cultural beliefs, or perhaps fond memories of your own childhood pet, they all help to inform our view today. 

As therapists, we have a rare opportunity to learn from our clients, as our clients learn from us. Over the course of nearly three decades, I continue to bear witness to clients' pain, whether it be buried, projected, internalized, or stuck! However, one thing remains the same: when it comes to the loss of one's pet, there is nothing stuck about the deep and expressed/experienced pain! Quite often, it is this pain that brings someone into therapy. If we, as therapists, dismiss the pain experienced by our client, they will leave feeling empty, misunderstood, and could possibly experience a sense of shame! 

Pet loss has become an important topic, even more so during natural disasters and a down economy. Most people will tell you how sorry they are, some may even send a card, but there does remain a discomfort or stigma around grieving too long or too deeply (i.e., "it was only a cat", or "she should be over it by now").

Therapy can truly be a place to grive and heal in a helpful and healthy environment. 

As a client, whether you are seeking help from a new therapist or are already working with someone, you need to feel comfortable expressing your pain over the loss of your pet. Working collaboratively with a therapist, you are entitled to feel understood, respected, and supported through this tremendously painful time. 

The following are some suggestions for clients to work collaboratively with a therapist and feel empowered in the process: 

  1. Be clear and direct around what you need, how you are feeling, and how your therapist might help you in regard to your loss.
  2. Pay close attention to how you feel. Does it feel like a safe space? Are you given the time to share, grieve, and process without there being a different agenda or the topic being changed? 
  3. Does your therapist respond in a kind, caring, and empathic way? Do you feel heard and understood by him/her? 
  4. One way to include your therapist in your grieving process is to bring in photos and memorabilia, as well as share stories about your pet. 

There is no time limit to grief and grieving. Take the time you need! Hopefully your therapist will ask a lot of questions, remain engaged, and empathize with your pain. 

The darkest hours of a client's pain around the death of their pet can also help to create a new and healthy beginning of a relationship! For some people, the loss of their pet is as important and painful as anyone's loss of a family member, friend, or partner/spouse. 

Grieving the loss of your animal is both extremely personal and profound. It is an experience that far too many people dismiss or can't understand. It is my hope that we all can find that safe place and person to help us grieve, heal, and bond/love again. 


Sharyn Rose is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Davis Square, Somerville, MA. To learn more, visit her websites at: and


Therapeutic Relationship

The Right Fit: Choosing a Therapist

by Sharyn Rose Friday, July 6, 2012

Most of us were raised in a culture where asking for help was not easy and even downright terrifying! 

It takes a leap of faith to make that initial contact with a therapist and hope this person may be able to help mitigate the discomfort or pain we present with. People are told to "listen to their gut" or "trust their instincts" in finding a therapist. A problem with that is, as a potential client coming in for help, the degree of pain you are in will most certainly be stronger than your ability to tune into your instincts or listen to your gut.

The following is an outline of questions and observatins for you to make and ask, most especially for clients who are new to the process: 

Initial Contact

  1. Did the therapist return your call or email in a timely manner? 
  2. Were they able to schedule an appointment to meet with you within a reasonable timeframe? 
  3. Were they willing to spend a brief time on the phone, willing to answer questions you may have?
  4. Lastly, does their manner/voice sound pleasant and/or warm? 

Initial Appointment 

  1. Is the therapist's office clean, comfortable, and inviting? 
  2. If your appointment is scheduled for 10:00, does he or she greet you at 10:00? 
  3. Is he or she attentive, engaging and engaged with you throughout the session? Although therapists need to take notes, does he or she make good eye contact with you? 
  4. Do you feel heard? Does the therapist appear open and non-judgmental? Do you feel spoken to with respect and dignity? 
  5. Does the therapist talk too much or too little? We all respond to people's styles differently, but the focus should remain on the client! 
  6. Does he or she review what you have shared with them and give you a sense of their approach and how they hope to help you? 
  7. Lastly, do you find yourself feeling a bit less frightened or confused, the same, or worse at the end of the session? 

The therapeutic relationship is just that - a relationship. Although you are seeking help from an "expert", your working relationship needs to feel like a collaborative partnership. 

Is there something you would like to add? Let us know what you think in comments. 

Sharyn Rose Psychotherapist


Sharyn Rose is a Psychotherapist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Davis Square, Somerville, MA. To learn more, visit her websites at or



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