"Ah, it's just a pet" . . . Restoring health after the loss of a pet
Many clients talk about losses, a pattern recently is of clients who have lost beloved pets, dogs and cats. Their mourning is real, their furry friends have spent “a heck of a long time with us” they say. Pets have often arrived into families, when children are young or in teenage years. They have grown alongside those children who are now out of the house, independent and often with families of their own.
Pets have seen spouses pass away or been like pillows on the eve of their owners hearing their jobs have been axed and they’ve to work the next few weeks to the end of the month. When everything is unfolding emotionally, some clients’ pets have also passed away or had to be euthanized due to health issues.
Pets and health can go hand in hand, pet therapy, for example, has become a very important resource in many hospitals. Visits to patients by trained volunteers with their dogs bring comfort and solace to many including the hospital staff. Pets are used by the therapists in many ways. Getting the pediatric patient who is reluctant to walk for the physiotherapist to 'walk the dog' is one way to motivate the child or teen. Patients with mental health issues often find a special bond is possible with their weekly visits with dogs. No words are necessarily needed. Some patients are reluctant to share their emotions but their eyes well up when they get to pat the dogs. The power of the animals’ presence can be comforting and emotionally healing and there are physical benefits too. Research has shown that pet therapy can help people feel more connected to another living being, to feel calmer, lower blood pressure and feel not quite so alone. Pet therapy can be formal, like in hospitals, but pets at home bring their own health benefits too. Many pet owners describe the mere presence of a pet as adding something to the home dynamic.
So what then are some of the things we can do for people at the time of loss, when their pets die? Are there meaningful rituals? What might you like if you lost a pet? Would you like to have a visit from a friend with their furry family member if you were at home and feeling down? Lots of questions here and lots to reflect on. I always welcome the tales of tails that my clients bring to me, some sad and some happier like when they announce in time . . . 'Hey, it's not really a big deal or anything . . . but we've decided to get a new dog . . . I'm ready now'.