Companion Animal Loss Support Group
Konrad Lorenz, co-recipient of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine and an early researcher in the human-animal bond, stated, “The wish to keep an animal arises from a general longing to bond with nature.”
After repeatedly suffering the loss of aging family pets, I became increasingly interested in understanding the relationships between individuals and their companion animals (formerly referred to as “pets”). This interest led me deep into the research regarding the nature of the human-animal bond and attachment and the impact of the loss of a companion animal on its owner/guardian. Now with specific knowledge and therapeutic skills for dealing with pet loss, I currently offer individual counseling and a support group for anyone who is grieving the loss of a companion animal and/or dealing with a fatally ill companion animal.
In the past decade there has been a dramatic increase in the population of companion animals in the United States. In 2006, American households were “home” to:
- 74.8 million dogs
- 88.3 million cats
- 151.5 million fish
- 16 million birds
- 13.4 million reptiles
- 24.3 million “other” small animals
Current research indicates that 63% of Americans (approximately 71 million households) live with a companion animal, and 45% of Americans live with more than one companion animal. Many of these animals are considered to be family members…the family would not be complete without them. It seems that the time has arrived to genuinely honor this human-animal bond and the grief an individual may experience with the loss of a companion animal, who for many people is a four-legged family member. (2007-2008 APPA National Pet Owners Survey)
The experience of losing a companion animal can be as painful as the loss of a human being, and the grief response may be just as intense as the response to losing a person you love. Grieving the loss of a companion animal is often as emotionally necessary and compelling as grieving the loss of a cherished human friend.
“When you live with a pet, that pet lives in your brain, and your brain stores the memories you have and the love you feel for a pet. Your brain does not know the difference between the love and attachment you feel for a person or a pet.” (Daniel Amen, 2006)
Mordecai Siegal (born 1934) has been credited with saying: “Acquiring a dog may be the only opportunity a human being has to choose a relative.”
Support Group and Individual Therapy
The primary goal of the support group or individual therapy is to provide each person with a safe and supportive setting where every individual is encouraged to validate, honor, and grieve the loss of a companion animal…who also may have been a close family member.