Grieving the Death of a Dog

Not everyone understands the depth of grief a person experiences when a beloved dog passes, but those of us who develop a strong human-animal bond with a four-legged family member are hit with deep emotional pain,.

And grief hurts physically too.

It’s normal to have body pain, headaches, joint stiffness, and lethargy caused by the incredible amount of stress hormones released during a period of grieving. 

Four of my training colleagues experienced the loss of one or more animals recently. And I lost my precious Cailie, my four-year-old joyful and comedic companion. To say we’re all still grappling with those losses is to make light of our feelings. 

Grief is a common conversation with many of our clients whose hearts are wrenched due to a loss in their life. It could be the death of a dog or cat in the home, or it may be the loss of a way of life when a dog is experiencing a serious behavior challenge or debilitating health issue. 

To better understand how to support our clients and help ourselves through periods of deep grief, I invited Tom Favale, DVM and Licensed Master Social Worker to be a guest speaker for our group of trainers mourning the deaths of our dogs. Tom is the grief counselor for the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM). His understanding and compassion are immense for those grappling with grief.  

Tom helped us understand the differences between anticipatory grief, disenfranchised grief, and echoing grief (also known as mirroring grief).

One of the biggest takeaways from Tom’s time with us was gaining confirmation that the grief process isn’t linear.

Moving through grief is more like a spiral or squiggly line that travels forward, backward, up, and down, and then repeats the random pattern. There’s also no one way or right way to move through and reach the other side of grief. 

One thing that helps everyone, no matter the type of grief they’re experiencing, is professional grief counseling. And you need not pay for it. Take advantage of Tom’s expertise. UTCVM Veterinary Social Work Department offers four free grief counseling sessions to anyone in or outside the U.S. Get help here.  I found great benefit from using their services and believe you will too. Because of my own journey with grief, I created a Grief Support resource page. May you find benefit from the variety of articles, videos, and podcast listed there. 

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