As a counselor with a special focus on pet grief, you might expect that I would have a whole stack of books on pet grief. You would be right.
There are so many truly wonderful books that have been written to guide the bereaved through the process of grief and mourning for an animal companion. So many, in fact, that although I am deeply committed to helping people through pet grief, I would hesitate to ever write a book on that subject myself. What more could I add?
By far, my very favorite book is the slimmest volume, published in 2004. The title is: When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing; Compassionate support and practical suggestions to help you understand your grief and begin to heal. It’s a long sub-title, but just look for it under the title, When Your Pet Dies. The author is Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
This book is everything the subtitle promises. It tackles the questions that are bound to be on your mind: the difference between depression and normal grief; grieving a pet vs. grieving a person; physical symptoms and explosive emotions that may accompany pet grief; feelings around euthanasia, ways you could memorialize your pet, etc.
Although the topics handled are heavy, the book feels light and comforting. It’s a small book, giving a feeling of manageability; interspersed throughout the text are personal short accounts from people who write about their beloved animal companions: horses, dogs, birds, cats, turtles, rabbits and more.
In addition, the book is interactive, in that there are some workbook-like pages where you can write and process your grief if you would like to. On these pages, you are encouraged to write about your best memories with your pet, make a list of all the things you learned from your pet, write a letter to your pet, and more activities of a similar nature. Activities such as these are very therapeutic, and can really help you through your grieving process if you want to do them.
The tone of the book is compassionate, non-judgmental and very comforting. You will feel as though you have an understanding and wise companion walking along with you, assuring you that your feelings are normal and that you have every right to feel them.
For many people, a book such as this may be a beginning, but talking with a counselor who really understands pet grief may be needed. Some of my clients don’t want to see any books about pet grief; it seems to make their pain worse. Sometimes it’s the timing; a book may be helpful at a later stage, but not at the beginning of the grieving process.
However, talking through your own experience of love and loss with a compassionate and trained professional counselor who understands the depth of your bond with your animal companion is an option that is important to consider if you feel you are getting “stuck” in your grief.
If you feel it’s time for you to try one of the many pet grief books that abound, I would most recommend this one.
I will close with a quote from this book: “You loved your pet. And because your love was deep and profound, your grief is deep and profound. That is both normal and necessary. Never be ashamed of your grief over the death of a pet.”