Can Losing a Companion Animal Can Be Harder Than Losing a Relative or Friend? Some Clinical Insights

I frequently speak and write about the multitude of reasons why the death of a companion animal can be such a difficult loss and why, for some, it can be even more difficult than human loss. As important as that narrative is for understanding and working towards healing, it is also important to look at statistics and research when seeking to understand and re-in franchising this marginalized and traumatizing loss.

In a continued effort to raise awareness and sensitivity to the importance of the Human-Animal Bond and Pet Loss, I would like to share a small excerpt from a Journal publication I am working on that references my clinical work and research findings regarding Pet Loss and Complicated Grief Response (or Persistent Complex Bereavement):

90% of clients who presented to my Psychotherapy practice for pet bereavement counseling scored high on the Bereavement Experience Questionnaire (BEQ). Out of those clients, 75% scored high on the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG) which indicates that these bereaved pet owners are at an increased risk for Complicated Grief Response or Persistent Complex Bereavement.

In comparison, 75% of clients who presented for bereavement counseling related to human loss scored high on the Bereavement Experience Questionnaire (BEQ) and only 50% of those clients scored high on the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG).

In brief summary; In my clinical practice between 2002 and 2018:

  • 15% of bereaved pet owners scored higher on the BEQ as compared to those grieving the loss of a human.
  • 25% of bereaved pet owners scored higher on the ICG as compared to those grieving the loss of a human.

While my clinical practice does not suffice as a research study, it does confirm the findings of my published research on canine loss (A Phenomenological Study of Canine Loss and Grief Response: Clinical and Depth Psychological Implications, 2006), which indicates the loss of a companion animal can put the bereaved at an increased risk for Complicated Grief Response/Persistent Complex Bereavement and other emotional and psychological struggles. With continued research, clinical and outreach efforts may we continue to bring attention to this over looked and undervalued loss and develop evidence- based treatment to those struggling to cope with the loss of a beloved companion animal.

J. Corbin, (2006) Phenomenological Study of Canine Loss and Grief Response: Clinical and Depth Psychological Implications

J. Corbin, (2019) And I Love You Still…A Thoughtful Guide and Remembrance Journal For Healing The Loss of a Pet

J. Corbin, (2019) Legitimizing The Complexities Surrounding The Loss Of  A Companion Animal

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