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Pet Loss and College Students

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Pet Loss and College Students Jessica Terwilliger, MA June 2, 2011 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Why should therapists care about pet loss? – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Pet Loss and College Students


1
Pet Loss and College Students
  • Jessica Terwilliger, MA
  • June 2, 2011

2
Why should therapists care about pet loss?
  • Scope of pet ownership in the United States
  • Brief lifespan of companion animals
  • Roles that companion animals play in human lives
  • Ethical principles

3
Understanding Pet Loss
  • Grief Responses After the Loss of a Pet
  • Human-Animal Bonds
  • Disenfranchised Grief

4
Understanding Pet LossGrief Responses After the
Loss of a Pet
  • I knew Id miss him, but I never dreamed just
    how much. I dont care about anything else right
    now, not my job, not my family, nothing. Nothing
    else matters. I just want my pet back. There is
    this big hole, empty place, in me and in my life
    and nothing has any appeal. I wish I could think
    of something that could take it away, but nothing
    can (Carmack, 1985, p. 149).

5
Understanding Pet LossGrief Responses After the
Loss of a Pet
  • Research suggests that, for many people, the
    grief experienced after the loss of a pet is
    analogous to the grief experienced after the loss
    of an important human companion such as a parent,
    child, or spouse. At 2 weeks and 26 weeks
    post-loss, individuals grieving the loss of a
    companion animal and individuals grieving the
    loss of another human experience similar levels
    of anger, despair, social isolation, rumination,
    depersonalization, somatization, loss of control,
    and death anxiety (Gerwolls Labott, 1994).

6
Understanding Pet LossGrief Responses After the
Loss of a Pet
  • Surveys of bereaved pet owners (e.g., Wrobel
    Dye, 2003 Archer Winchester, 1994) indicate
    that common grief reactions include
  • Numbness/disbelief.
  • Preoccupation with the loss or with memories of
    the pet.
  • An urge to search for the lost pet.
  • Being drawn to reminders of the lost pet.
  • Anger/irritability.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Crying.
  • Loneliness.
  • Guilt.
  • Somatic symptoms (e.g., physical pain, the
    feeling of a lump in ones throat).
  • The majority of participants indicated that the
    loss of their pet had significantly impacted
    their lives (Archer Winchester, 1994).
  • Although grief symptoms subsided over time for
    many participants, for a considerable number of
    participants, grief symptoms persisted for up to
    a year after the loss (Wrobel Dye, 2003).

7
Understanding Pet LossGrief Responses After the
Loss of a Pet
  • Factors that may influence grief responses after
    the loss of a pet include
  • Previous losses.
  • Personal beliefs about the appropriateness of
    grieving.
  • Attachment strength and style.
  • Perceived social support.
  • Gender.
  • Age.
  • Circumstances surrounding the death.

8
Understanding Pet LossHuman-Animal Bonds
  • Animals are such agreeable friends they ask
    no questions, they pass no criticisms.
  • George Eliot

Our perfect companions never have fewer than
four feet. Colette
9
Understanding Pet LossHuman-Animal Bonds
  • Throughout the course of history, animals have
    filled diverse and integral roles in human lives
    utilitarian workers sources of sustenance
    spiritual guides or guardians curative forces
    and dispensers of healing agents of
    socialization connections to the natural world
    and sources of social support and physical
    comfort (Serpell, 2000).
  • In recent years, scholars and laypeople have
    given greater attention to the non-utilitarian
    and personalized relationships between animals
    and human beings.

10
Understanding Pet LossHuman-Animal Bonds
  • The meaning that contemporary pet owners ascribe
    to the relationships they share with their
    companion animals may vary, yet it is not
    uncommon for people to describe their pet as a
    child, a loved one, a best friend,
    family, a soul mate or meaning everything
    to them (Archer Winchester, 1994 Carmack,
    2003).
  • Like human companions, animal companions may
    serve as attachment figures, providing
    individuals with a sense of comfort and security
    when faced with distressing or threatening events
    (Holmes, 1994).

11
Understanding Pet LossHuman-Animal Bonds
  • Although relationships with animals may be
    similar in some ways to relationships with human
    beings, the animal-human relationship can offer
    things that may be lacking in human-human
    relationships.
  • Abiding presence (Carmack, 2003)
  • Unconditional acceptance
  • Expression of different parts of the self

12
Understanding Pet LossDisenfranchised Grief
  • There is no grief like the grief that does not
    speak.
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • I measure every grief I meet with narrow,
    probing eyes I wonder if it weight like mine or
    has an easier size.
  • Emily Dickinson

13
Understanding Pet LossDisenfranchised Grief
  • Disenfranchised grief occurs when bereaved
    individuals are not permitted the right to
    grieve (Doka, 2002, p. 5). Grief may become
    disenfranchised when
  • The relationship is not recognized or regarded as
    valid.
  • The importance of the relationship is not
    appreciated.
  • The loss isnt the result of a human death.
  • The bereaved individual does not grieve as others
    expect him/her to grieve.
  • The type or cause of death results in decreased
    support.

14
Understanding Pet LossDisenfranchised Grief
  • Disenfranchised grief may fundamentally be
    understood as a form of empathic failure
    (Neimeyer Jordan, 2002). Empathic failures may
    arise at multiple interfaces
  • Between the bereaved individual and others.
  • Between the bereaved individual and spiritual
    forces.
  • Within the bereaved individual.

15
How Can Counselors Help?
16
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Recognize and affirm the relationships clients
    share with their companion animals.

17
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Normalize clients experiences by providing
    psychoeducation about human-animal bonds, grief
    processes, and grief reactions after the loss of
    a pet.

18
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Support clients in developing positive coping
    skills for managing grief symptoms.

19
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Provide clients with a space in which they may
    share memories of their pet.

20
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Support clients in exploring, making meaning of,
    and finding peace in special topics related to
    pet loss.
  • Euthanasia
  • Getting a new pet
  • Spiritual issues

21
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Support clients in learning how to reinvest in
    life while maintaining a connection and
    developing a new relationship with the departed
    pet.
  • Creative memorials
  • Outreach
  • Reevaluation of values/priorities and engagement
    in the world that is consonant with lessons
    learned from the companion animal

22
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Support clients in developing and implementing
    grief/bereavement rituals.

23
How Can Counselors Help?
  • Introduce clients to pet loss resources to
    utilize outside of individual therapy sessions
    (e.g., books, websites, support groups).

24
Pet Loss Resources
  • Books
  • Allen, M.A. (2007). Coping with sorrow on the
    loss of your pet (3rd ed.). Dog Ear Publishing.
  • Anderson, A. Anderson, L. (2008). Saying
    goodbye to your angel animals Finding comfort
    after losing your pet. Novato, CA New World
    Library.
  • Carmack, B.J. (2003). Grieving the death of a
    pet. Minneapolis, MN Augsburg Fortress.
  • Greene, L.A. Landis, J. (2002). Saying goodbye
    to the pet you love A complete resource to help
    you heal. Oakland, CA New Harbinger
    Publications.
  • Harris, E. (1997). Pet loss A spiritual guide.
    St. Paul, MN Llewellyn Publications.
  • Harris, J. (2002). Pet loss A spiritual guide.
    New York, NY Lantern Books.
  • Kaufman, J. (1999). Crossing the Rubicon
    Celebrating the human-animal bond in life and
    death. Cottage Grove, WI Xenophon Publications.

25
Pet Loss Resources
  • Books (continued)
  • Kowalski, G. (1997). Goodbye, friend Healing
    wisdom for anyone who has ever lost a pet.
    Novato, CA New World Library.
  • Kowalski, G. (1999). The souls of animals.
    Novato, CA New World Library.
  • McClinton, J.L. (2004). Paw prints in heaven?
    Christians and pet loss. Lincoln, NE iUniverse,
    Inc.
  • Reynolds, R.M. (2010). Blessing the bridge What
    animals teach us about death, dying, and beyond.
    Troutdale, OR NewSage Press.
  • Sife, W. (2005). The loss of a pet. Hoboken, NJ
    Howell Book House.
  • Walker, K. (1999). The heart that is loved never
    forgets Recovering from loss When humans and
    animals lose their companions. Rochester, VT
    Healing Arts Press.
  • Wolfelt, A.D. (2004). When your pet dies A guide
    to mourning, remembering and healing. Fort
    Collins, CO Companion Press.

26
Pet Loss Resources
  • Websites
  • Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement
  • http//www.aplb.org
  • Chances Spot
  • http//www.chancesspot.org
  • Delta Society
  • http//www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid307
  • Lightning Strike Pet Loss Support
  • http//www.lightning-strike.com
  • Pet Loss Grief Support Website
  • http//www.petloss.com
  • Pet Loss Support Page
  • http//www.pet-loss.net
  • The Original Rainbow Bridge On-Line Pet Memorial
  • http//rainbowbridge.org
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