How Do I Help My Clients Through the Grieving Process?
The loss of an animal companion can be heartbreaking. Clients are experiencing the loss of a family member, and depend on support and guidance during this difficult time. One overlooked role that veterinarians must play is a counselor to their client.
- There are several things to take into account when it comes to helping clients process grief:
- The loss of an animal companion affects everyone in the family; adults, children, and other pets
- Adults, children and pets all process grief differently
- Grief is natural and will pass
Helping Children Understand the Loss of a Pet
There are proactive measures that should be taken to help children with grief processing. The biggest factor is honesty. Use the words death and dying instead of euphemisms, such as “sleeping”. It may seem counter-intuitive, but give children of all ages the choice to be present during an in-home pet euthanasia. Sheltering them from the event can lead to confusion and lack of closure. Provide children with a special time to say goodbye to their beloved pet. This will create a more positive and comforting experience.
Signs of Pet Grief and Treatments
Pets also need help grieving a housemate. Examples of pets grieving a housemate include:
- a dog letting out a whine as a housemate passed
- a dog laying on a housemate’s grave for weeks
- a dog who slept next to a shelf where a housemate’s ashes rested.
Their pain and grief are indeed real. A client can oftentimes be so consumed by their own grief that they may not realize their other pets are grieving.
Here are signs of pet grief to look out for:
- Depression: loss of appetite or desire to play
- Anxiety: behaving in a needy, hyper, or destructive way
Suggested treatments for pet processing grief include:
- walking and exercise
- extra attention
- possibly the addition of another pet for companionship
So much thought is given to preparing for and executing a compassionate in-home pet euthanasia. It is critical that the professional care and attention a client receives extends beyond the actual procedure, with a compassionate follow-up appointment to discuss grief and how the family is processing.
The goal of pet hospice is to make sure that the pet is as pain-free and comfortable as possible. This goal is best achieved when veterinary clinics and pet hospice providers work as a team to provide a high-quality care and services for clients.
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