Since I started work on my PhD in 2019 it has become abundantly clear to me that there is a real need for more dedicated support for people as they are experiencing the loss of a pet. The grief that accumulates around animal loss is staggering, as is the trouble we have trying to process and express it. This cannot be allowed to go on.
I want to acknowledge the hard work that a lot of counsellors do in the grief space (I have met some of them and, honestly, I take my hat off to them). So too, veterinarians are often the “soft place” for human clients to fall, though they are criminally ignored by the mental health system and lack the emotional support they need to perform in their work. I also want to highlight that there are some End-of-Life professionals available, and some mediums who also work in the animal space. Again, these highly skilled and compassion individuals do some amazing work as they accompany people through the worst of the loss… when people know that their services are available that is – which they often do not. A main reason for this is that people still won’t TALK about animal death. My research came along (in part) to try and break down that barrier – which has led me here.
We have a huge number of people in this country, and around the world, who live with animals in the home… and that number is only going up since the onset of COVID. The result of this is that the few professionals we do have are toiling away under an ever-increasing burden. We can see this, and what is coming, and it cannot be allowed to go on.
Death care takes it out of you. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. It’s not the kind of job people can do “full-time” – and if they try, it’s not the kind of work you can last in for long. Not without an extensive support base. Not without adequate time for self-care and monitoring. Not without mentors and peers who support you, every step of the way. With human death, we have no shortage of people in place to “pick up the slack”… but animal death is still way behind, lingering in the proverbial shadows because people still feel shame, guilt, and embarrassment about speaking openly about their loss. This is complicated by the absence of a model which was built and delivered EXCLUSIVELY for animals (and their caregivers) at the end of life – one that accommodates the specific emotions linked to animal death and bereavement. Similarly, there is an enduring stigma about living that loss. As if speaking about and feeling the absence of our animals, and then ritualising that in a lived, tangible way, somehow cheapens the love we have in our relationships with humans… we’re such ridiculous and jealous creatures at times…
In any event, based on what I have learned, I have decided to open my own End-of-Life business, which offers services exclusively for pets and their people. I talk about it here so that there is complete transparency for my research, but also to get the word out. Foot traffic is a tricky beast in the online space, so self-promotion is really key and that means using any and all platforms available.
If you are going through the loss of an animal, or if you are an animal caregiver who loves a bit of forward planning, please have a look at my new website: The Wheel Mavens.
I wish you and your loved ones (animal and human) well during this endlessly frustrating and anxiety inducing time, and I thank you for reading!