Brisbane counsellor and life coach - family, child, youth, relationships or just for you

Eileen Clark - Change Counsellor & Consultant



Adult, Pets and Grief


As children, more often than not, the pet we initially experience in life is chosen for us by our parents or carers, and, consequently, our connection with them may or may not be overly strong, although this may change over time.  “I wanted a horse, not a guinea pig, and now you expect me to clean his poop out every day and feed him!?”   Suddenly pet ownership is more about a lesson in responsibility than fun!


Zoom forward a few years and - deciding on a pet is a very different animal so to say.


For parents it can indeed be, in part, about presenting your children with an opportunity to develop empathy, learn responsibility and experience the love,   fun and sheer joy of animal companionship.  This doesn’t discount however your connection and emotional investment in whatever pets you choose.


For others, pet ownership comes about for very different and unique reasons.  Many adults seek and find great comfort in animal companionship.  There is an abundance of research on this topic and the health benefits that come from sharing our homes and hearts with animals, from lowered blood pressure, improved social contact, less stress, improved cardiovascular health and a general increase in overall happiness.


Depending on your life experience in the realm of human relationships and the sometimes complicated ways we humans have of expressing love and affection, often with strings firmly attached, deciding on a pet can feel blissfully uncomplicated and straightforward.  Who else greets you every day as if they thought they were never going to see you again? And lets you know how much they enjoy your company without holding back one little scrap? Anyone with a dog will know what this is like.  Cats, horses, birds and, yes, even fish, have their own unique ways of letting you know, just ask anyone who has had the pleasure of having them around!


Some couples may have chosen an animal companion together and have many shared experiences with their beloved pet intricately woven into their family stories.  If they experience the death of their partner their pet may become a poignant reminder of their time together and play an even more significant role in their life.   Pets may also need support at such a time.


Whatever your motivation for pet ownership, one thing is for sure, the death of a much loved pet can bring us undone in ways we never would have imagined.  Whether we struggle with the death of a pet will depend on many things, including our capacity to acknowledge that we are hurting and to give ourselves permission to feel the loss and sadness.  The death of a loved pet can also trigger other death or loss experiences in life that may be tucked away and unacknowledged.


If you have experienced the death of a much loved pet, or your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.      If you would like to talk more about this or would like support for yourself or a child or young person who may be struggling with the loss of a pet please contact Eileen on:M: 0468 590 678 or email

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