How Sessions Are Conducted
There are often times when the loss of a pet or significant animal in a person’s life can lead to much need for counselling and understanding. Indeed, there are times when the loss of a beloved pet can be of greater consequence than the loss of another human. This can be especially true in our ever-growing seniors population. We often hear that counselling is a sign of weakness or an inability to let go, but this is not always the case. Counselling can be extremely valuable in the journey through grief / mourning and can be a life-altering experience where you can not only discuss various issues in grieving the loss of a pet but be helped in the grief / mourning issues involving people, especially other family members. You will have the opportunity to share with others the camaraderie of mutual support while exploring an understanding of your loss and developing a “social network” which may reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation.
There is also the discussion of how we should deal with children, of any age, as they are faced with the same loss. These are valid concerns and, in many ways, some of the most difficult to address since they involve the thought processes of children. In prior times children were often excluded from discussions of death, dying and rituals such as funerals. It was believed that, by not including them, the children would not worry or be aware of the many issues and concerns. We also believed that we were protecting them, not realizing that children will observe adults in pain and, possibly, ask themselves what they had done to cause Mommy and Daddy to be sad and even cry. We may have more recently decided that children should be included BUT, unfortunately, we have not always remembered that young people are just that: children. Often, the loss of a pet can be the first experience with dying and death. The way we address their issues will probably affect how they relate to death, including humans, for their entire lives.
You will find that the sessions should address most general issues and truly assist in supporting the grief / mourning processes.
Often veterinarians, their support staff and Humane societies and their staff may need a place to discuss mutual support for their individual feelings. This is particularly true for staff of all professional groups who work continuously in areas of euthanasia or the decision processes that decide upon the disposition of animals in their care. PLC offers a safe, confidential and supportive environment which may prevent both major work stress / fatigue and burnout.
Counselling is now being offered both to individuals, families / friends, and in group formats.
Beyond being committed to counselling and discussion, Pet Loss Canada is also dedicated to EDUCATION. Often there are geographical areas that do not have support mechanisms to work with people in need. Pet Loss has compiled an extensive introductory seminar course to teach individuals the skills for “Volunteer Counsellor Support“. There are also those who, in pet support or in private business, suffer from the effects of Compassion Fatigue, Vicarious Trauma and Burnout. Pet Loss offers education in this area of need as well. We continue to add courses and support in education to improve all people’s information and needs
How It Began
Tobias (a long-lived family member, much beloved and truly missed)
Tobias came to our family as a scrawny, flea infested kitten of unknown parentage who was selected from of myriad of barn cats. Throughout the years he eased himself into the deepest recesses of my heart. He was my companion, my confessor and one of my greatest joys in life.
In June, 2009, while I was completing my Chaplaincy training, I had already noticed a cancerous lump growing behind his left ear. After having a lengthily conversation with our veterinarian it was determined that the tumour was inoperable and, thus, a decision was made to avoid future pain and suffering by having Tobias euthanized. I was present when he died and have always been thankful for that since it assisted me with issues of finality.
I have had the honour of helping hundreds of people who were dying, or saying farewell to loved ones, but I never imagined how deeply I could be affected by the loss of a beloved pet. It was during my early grieving stages that I realized this difficult journey was similar to the experiences with loss of a person. I developed a true wish to assist other animal owners and lovers as they walked through their individual journeys of sadness, loss, pain, and mourning.
As the age of the “baby-boomer” is upon us, psychologists, therapists and counsellors are beginning to realize the full significance of animals: especially house pets and the roles that they play as members of the family. They offer many very important gifts for all ages, but the greatest treasures are the gifts of unconditional love and incredible enjoyment. I would be remiss if not recognize that animals only do this for people who allow themselves to love and appreciate them in return.
And so, as a “lover” of all animals (especially cats), it has become a life-long mission to support all those who have suffered the loss of a dear friend.
About Brien Thurston
Executive Director, Pet Loss Canada
For more than 20 years Brien has taught college courses in communications, crisis / conflict management and law. Brien has also provided support and counselling to people in long term care facilities, hospices, families in crisis and has extensive experience in the fields of grief and mourning. He is in considerable demand as a motivational speaker and, most significantly, as a pastoral care counsellor. He holds credentials in the following areas: BA-Honours- Social Communications / Law. Diplomas and Certifications in: Hospice, Palliative Care and Family Counselling environments, Grief and Mourning, Comprehensive Bereavement, Crisis Resolution, Behavioural and Lifespan Psychology, Advanced Behavioral / Personality Psychosocial Symptomology, Clinical Pastoral Education, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Diversity (Sociology) and advanced Sociology and Social Integration. Most recently a College Honour’s List Graduate in Human Services. Member of Ontario Bereavement Association.
Brien is also an accredited Senior Chaplain who provides spiritual and pastoral care in an ecumenical style and a non-denominational minister recognized and licenced by the Province of Ontario .
Brien has been greatly inspired by the work of such authors as Alan Wolfelt, William Worden, Cheri Barton-Ross, and Therese Rando. The prime philosophy surrounding his work is that of companioning those in need, walking with them on their individual journeys of loss and grief rather than “steering” or “directing” them. The understanding of this philosophy I owe to the excellent teachings and writings of Dr. Alan Wolfelt. The journeys through loss, pain, grief and ultimately new discovery are not dictated by any time limitation or by other contrived methodology, but rather by accompanying, empathizing and supporting all those who are in need.
Pet Loss Canada Co-Founder
Tim Underwood is an animal lover and is privileged to be co-founder and serve on the board of PLC. His undergrad is in science and his grad degree is in business. He enjoys consulting with businesses and nonprofits on matters of marketing, communication, and strategy. His strengths include online (internet, social, digital) and offline (traditional) marketing, publicity, networking, relationship coaching, and technology.