Saturday, November 30, 2013

Re-enfranchising Grief Due to Pet Loss

     A kind of disenfranchised loss that hits close to home for me is the loss of a pet. I mentioned in an earlier post about my cat but just before I adopted her I lost my dog, Nala. Nala was a Staffordshire terrier mix who my family rescued from the ASPCA when I was just a young girl and, I don't care how cliche it sounds, she was the best dog ever. We lost her during my senior year of high school and I distinctly remember how hard it was with no one in my immediate social circle to "get it". Of course my friends understood why I was upset but after a week or so I was expected to get over it and return to completely normal function. It has been five years since her passing. My younger brother can't talk about her without tearing and my mother still refuses to adopt another pet because the loss of Nala was so hard on her.

     Dr. Millie Cordaro is making an effort to understand and re-enfranchise this kind of loss. She has recently published a paper on creating a grief model for clients experiencing pet loss. She does this by conceptualizing the grief of pet loss using Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' model of stage-based theory and two contemporary theories, dual-process theory and adaptive grieving theory. She acknowledges the importance and strength of the bond a pet owner feels to his or her pet and the increasingly important roles pets are playing in our lives. Her findings were that bereaved pet owners were more likely to experience "silent" grief due to insufficient social support. This kind of grief is link with intensified grief reactions and long-term unresolved grief. Her suggestion is the grief counselors acknowledge and empathize with clients experiencing this kind of loss and should make an effort to recommend resources and refer clients to support groups. She says this in closing, "Considering pet loss as a normative grief process is not only an indication
to bereaved pet owners that their loss is valued, it is also an initial step toward reinstating within our society a stigmatized grief."

Cordaro, M. (2012). Pet loss and disenfranchised grief: Implications for mental health counseling practice. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling34(4), 283-294.

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