Are you struggling with difficult feelings about your beloved animal getting older or experiencing illness. It can feel like such a helpless position, you being desperate to help your pet feel better when sometimes you just have to do the best you can.
As a pet carer, you are having to manage your emotions and the well being of your pet in the period approaching your loss. This can be such a painful time for you and yet it is essential you can look after yourself as much as possible in order to keep life as fulfilling for you, your family and your companion animal.
This can feel like such an impossible balancing act for you where the demands on you are great.
When I lost my dog, I know I would have benefited from sessions where I could consider my feelings, label them, understand them and work out healthy ways to process them.
Luckily for me, I was training to be a therapeutic counsellor at that time and used the practice counselling sessions to share my depth of feeling with my colleagues. The value of that process has stayed with me and that is why I'm creating a programme of 6 sessions to do that very thing for you.
You may feel you don't need 1-1 counselling at this time, but feel that sharing your situation with others who understand may help to comfort you.
The programme I've created has different weekly themes which will help you to address your feelings and any practical issues you have.
You will be in a safe online group with up to 3 other animal carers. You will be able to talk about your feelings for your beloved companion animal and listen to each others' experiences regarding what is happening for each of you and you can consider the decisions you are each facing.
As an experienced clinical supervisor and therapeutic counsellor having worked with therapy groups and family groups, I have skills to help guide the sessions safely.
You can look at my website to learn more about my experience with loss and my qualifications and experience in this area if you need to know more about me.
Initially you will have a 1-1 counselling session with me where we will look at the nature of the work, discuss how the therapy groupwork will take place and consider any issues around safeguarding. The aim of this session is to consider the way these sessions may help you.
If we both feel that you will find the sessions beneficial, you will then engage in the series of 6 sessions with the same group of 3 other animal carers.
Group sessions will require you to be able to look at your range of emotions whilst being able to look after yourself during and after each session. If you have extreme, difficult raw emotions, such sessions may not be helpful at this time due to you being alone in your own physical space and online. It may be that face to face sessions could be more helpful and I could help to explore the possible support closer to where you live.
It may be that 1-1 therapeutic counselling may be more helpful and we could consider if my counselling service may help you at that time. After the initial session you might decide you don't wish to progress to the group therapy sessions or counselling and that is totally fine as well. There will be no pressure at all to continue if you do not wish to.
The therapeutic groupwork sessions will be weekly and will be 90 minutes duration and there will be a different theme for each week.
We will look at a variety of topics that may be concerning you in supporting your elderly or ill animal companion.
An example of a recent research project I undertook was that of over 70 respondents providing their views around pet aftercare offered via their vets. The respondents were animal carers from all over the world and some key themes emerging were of the need to be given clear information about euthanasia procedures and cremation/home burial/pet cemetery options available to them.
Carers also wanted to ensure their animal would be treated with dignity and that all services would be delivered with a high level of understanding and empathy.
The service provision varied greatly with some excellent vets showing empathy, having some caring rituals such as lighting a loss candle when an animal dies, offering clippings of fur and paw prints, sending sympathy cards and forget me not flowers through to treating a carer in a perfunctory manner as though they were requesting worming tablets! (If you'd like to learn more about my findings, please email me and I can send a short version of the report with an appendix of the results – the findings of how carers were treated by vets were variable).
One of the sessions in this programme is looking at what is available and what you can request for your pet. I've created a handy checklist that you can go through with your vet practice well in advance of the loss in order to ensure they will meet your needs when the time comes.
Everyone has different ideas and what suits one carer isn't needed for another but it's important to have a voice in any end of life or aftercare process and the session we can share together is ideal for this purpose. To equip you with the knowledge and support for you to consider what is right for you.
Unfortunately, things do go wrong at this stage and only this week there is another newspaper report in Scotland of a dog's ashes mistakenly being thrown in with the remains of lots of other animals. The owners were distraught and unfortunately these incidents happen all too frequently.
We can look at reputable organisations who deliver best practice and excellent service and where this type of 'mistake' will not happen. There are also best practice suggestions that inform you of the types of service you can request from your vet for your beloved animal.
The objective of these sessions is that they will help to prepare you for your actual loss. Anticipatory grief is very powerful and sometimes more powerful than the actual loss itself, especially where there is long term illness for your pet. Your hypervigilance in attending to the needs of your pet for a long time can really affect your emotional resilience and health, so your self-care at this time is essential.
Whatever we feel during the grieving process is natural to feel and you should never feel guilty for having your feelings or feel that you need to play them down.
If you need further support, you may wish to access 1-1 counselling with Lindow Counselling.
Please take a look at my website for further information about me, my services, my experience and qualifications in being able to offer this to you. I'm Enhanced DBS checked, fully insured, have training in working online with the Association for Counselling and Therapy Online (ACTO). I'm a registered member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (54515 registered member) being a qualified therapeutic counsellor and pet bereavement counsellor who's been practicing for almost 10 years. I have gained a distinction in the ACC diploma in Pet Bereavement Counselling (Mar 21).
The cost of the initial 1-1 session is £35, payable in advance. The session costs are £18 per session – all 6 payable in advance at the start of the groupwork so £108 for the group therapy sessions. Due to the nature of the work, I cannot slot other people in and so please think about your commitment before booking as there are no refunds available after the deadline date for the booking.
I'm aiming to start the group therapy sessions in April 2021 and can only deliver them with a minimum of 3 people in the group.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog – Helena
Please look out for my future blogs, my next one regarding pet bereavement is in relation to the recent spate of dog thefts and some of the confusing issues around that.