Losing any family member, even a beloved pet, is a very traumatic experience. Feelings of sadness and grief, or even depression and despair are common. Take heart that you are not alone in these feelings. And that there are organizations, as well as individuals, who empathize with these feelings and have special training to help you in this time of need. These people and places are called grief counselors and grief support services and they offer psychological and/or spiritual services from different therapeutic and cultural perspectives.

Grief and support counseling aims to help people deal with the heartache and mourning of a lost loved one. Grief can cause many physical and emotional symptoms that can affect and interfere with our everyday life. Everyone deals with grief in different ways and you should not feel like you must have all the symptoms in order to seek help. Sharing your pain with others in an environment of love, acceptance and understanding can facilitate the mourning process, ease your suffering and help you accept the loss of your loved one, in this case your pet.

The Internet is probably your best, first resource for seeking grief counseling and related services. Not only can you find lists of grief counselors in your area, many with client reviews, but you can also find message boards and user forums offering peer support and other resources for those stricken with grief. Grief can make one feel alienated and alone, linking with peer related groups, such as peer-group grief counseling, is a great way to stay connected and relate to others experiencing similar feelings.

Counseling can also help you make the difficult decisions required when facing the loss of your pet. When a beloved pet becomes ill, it can be a daunting task to have your pet euthanized. Grief counseling can be a safe way to interact with professionals trained to help you or, with others dealing with the passing of their own pets. Sharing your stories and concerns with others will help you commemorate your pet and process your feelings about the pet’s passing.

Each counselor or group may have different methods. Some may create an open forum to share and encourage active listening as a group. Others may initiate alternative therapeutic processes in order to help you honor and mourn your pet, such as writing about them, making a scrapbook or having a memorial service. Other individual counselors use individual methods tailored to each client’s specific needs.

Children often have the hardest time understanding death and losing a pet is usually the first experience with death a child will have. Grief counseling can be vital in helping children struggling with the death of a family pet. Learning how to cope with this confusion and grief at a young age will help the child throughout their life, dealing with the many tragedies and disappointments we all may face.

It is a sad and intimidating process when a pet dies, but can be made easier and less painful with the support and care of others trained to counsel others through such difficult times in life or, who have experienced the same sense of loss. Counseling is a superb way to find and connect with others who had to face many of the same things that you are facing right now. It is important that you not be alone and to remember that many others are feeling the same sense of loss as you. It is ok to grieve and accepting this is the first step. If you choose not to seek out professional or peer grief counseling for the loss of your pet and you find yourself struggling with your feelings, please speak to someone, whether a member of the clergy, trusted friend or family member, getting our emotions out in the open and not suppressing them is an important step in any healing process. For more information on grief and support counseling, visit the Delta Society http://www.deltasociety.org/Page.aspx?pid=307 or the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavementhttp://aplb.org/index.html.