Grieving Over Service Animals and Pets with Beth Gustin | POP 872

Grieving Over Service Animals and Pets with Beth Gustin | POP 872

How is pet loss a nuanced grieving experience? What is the difference between losing a pet versus a service animal? How can therapists help their clients through the grieving of a pet?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about the grief of pet loss with Beth Gustin.

Podcast Sponsor: Therapy Notes

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Meet Beth Gustin

A photo of Beth Gustin is captured. She is a therapist and practice owner. Beth is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Being born blind never stopped Beth from accomplishing her goals. It did give her a unique perspective on a different kind of grief and loss. Combining this with her personal experience of human, pet, and service dog deaths throughout her life, and professional training and certification in grief and loss, and Transitioning Through Change, PLLC just made sense. Beth uses humor, empathy, and wisdom to guide clients on their grief journey. Much like guide dog teamwork, therapy is similar.

Visit Beth’s practice website, Transitioning Through Change. Connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

In This Podcast

  • Grieving pet loss
  • Losing a pet versus losing a service animal
  • The grieving process
  • Beth’s advice to private practitioners

Grieving pet loss

For people who have busy routines with social lives and loved ones, their pets are important parts of the family, and are grieved deeply when they pass on.

However, for some people with little friends, connections, or loved ones, their pets can become their closest companions.

Oftentimes, when we don’t have a large circle of support, our pets are our only source of support [and] our whole life revolves around their care and their routines, so not only do you lose that pet but you also lose that routine, those secondary losses.

Beth Gustin

For some people, their pets are companions that they feel the safest talking to and expressing their thoughts to without receiving judgment they might from other people. So, losing their pet feels like a loss of a deeper, safe connection as well.  

Losing a pet versus losing a service animal

Service animals will often go with their people into places and spaces that their pets cannot go to, and help people to be their eyes, and ears, help them to regulate their emotions, and even alert them of medical conditions.

A service animal when it retires or when it is not working is like a pet too. Therefore, when a service animal retires or passes away, it leaves a big sense of loss behind.

You’re grieving, I think, on more levels because of the role that they have in your life.

Beth Gustin

The grieving process

[A feeling of guilt can occur] largely due and part because we are having to make decisions for our pets and service dogs that we can’t talk through with them.

Beth Gustin

The grieving process for the loss of pets or service animals is different from the grieving of losing a human loved one because there can often be a sense of guilt left behind.

When our pets become too old, or sick, or their quality of life has degraded, we need to make decisions about their lives, and we may feel unsure about the decision or even uncomfortable with the fact that we have to make it.

Therefore, apart from the guilt, sometimes clients that are grieving the loss of a pet would benefit from some self-forgiveness work as well.

Pets are not replaceable, and people need to understand the role that pets can play in people’s lives.

There are mutual benefits to owning pets for both the animal and their person, and they can contribute love and support through the deep bonds that they have with their owners.

I wish society would just realize [that] it’s not just a dog, or a cat, or a bird … it really does hurt [to lose them], we do grieve that loss very deeply.

Beth Gustin

Beth’s advice to private practitioners

Be yourself because that brings a whole new level into the service that you can provide to your counseling clients. Be open-minded and don’t be too attached to the outcome; let yourself be guided.

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Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

Thanks For Listening!

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