Registered nurse and licensed professional counselor Deborah Antinori joins Dr. Heidi Horsley to talk about pet loss, one of the most disenfranchised losses. She’s also a drama therapist and grief counselor. There are practical and emotional issues surrounding pet loss. When you lose a pet, it’s similar to any other kind of loss. Sadness, tearfulness, depression, and anxiety are all common. Pets are with you every day, and when they’re gone it feels like something is very wrong. You might feel angry with yourself—should you have taken them to the vet sooner? It’s easy to blame yourself, your vet, and in some cases even your pet.

There are many people who go to a group for a pet loss. This is where they get support for their feelings, but there are some constraints. Other losses might be coming forward from their past. Individual therapy, in these cases, may be best. Losing a pet can drum up feelings of when your mother died, or even a traumatic move to a new school when you were a kid. Physical symptoms like stomach trouble can also get stirred up.

Losing a Pet

“You’ll get another one” is one of the most hurtful things you can say to a person who loses a pet. Instead, just be quiet at times and let the person talk. “Tell me about Fido,” is a great opener. Saying how sorry you are or asking what you can do, such as babysit or bring over a dinner dish, are great ways to be helpful. “I loved Sparky, too,” and sharing memories is a great way to help heal.

A pet guardian has a tough time choosing euthanasia. It’s not an option for human companions, but keep in mind three prongs: Quality of life, physical symptoms, and your own quality of life.

 

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Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ​National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

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