The Purpose of the Animal Loss and Grief Support Professional Program of Study is to:
Support individuals who are grieving the loss of animal loved ones by:
A) offering classes to help them cope with and heal from the unique grief of pet loss; and
B) increasing the number of client-centered, empathy-based grief support practitioners available to support those in grief with tremendous empathy, love and skill.
Contribute to the professional development of pet loss grief support practitioners with an in-depth, comprehensive educational program for professional competency development leading to a certification of completion for those who wish to build or augment their knowledge and skill base in the field of animal loss and grief support.
Advance the pet loss grief support field with a first-of-its-kind training program, which addresses and integrates both psychological and spiritual issues and paradigms of loss and grief healing, and includes the perspectives of the animals themselves.
Promote a deepened cultural awareness and respect for the dignity and legitimacy of human grief from the loss of animal loved ones.
For people who love animals profoundly, losing them to physical death can be one of the most poignant, sacred and often emotionally devastating life passages they may ever experience. Our grief at these times deserves to be honored with acknowledgment of the legitimacy of our loss, and to be supported with great love, tender compassion and empathic skill. The experience of pet loss has been disenfranchised far too long. Everyone who experiences the loss of a deeply beloved animal deserves the same acknowledgement, loving support and opportunities for compassionate, competent, professional help that is typically available to people who lose human loved ones.
When I experienced my first loss of an animal loved one as an adult, it felt like the end of the world. It was in a way--the end of my world as I knew it with him in it. I loved this cat profoundly, and felt a love from him like no other love I had ever experienced. I had never before felt such searing pain as I did when he died. I was shattered by my grief, and didn't have any paradigms, theories or tools to understand it. Even with my training as a therapist, there were very few resources to draw from in that field, and very little written or voiced in the early 1980's about the unique grief of losing beloved animals.
On the contrary, what did exist spoke condescendingly of "pet loss" as practice for the "real thing of losing a human," very clearly treating it as a not-as-important type of loss. Reading this, and noticing how others around me saw me as odd for loving and grieving so deeply for an animal, I began to think something must be wrong with me.
After a time, however, I got impatient with the prevailing narrow and prejudicial view of the human-animal relationship, and returned to the truth and wisdom of my own soul: that the love between animals and humans is very real, that our grief when they die is very real, and that both are as legitimate as human-human love and grief. After finding my way through the pain of this loss and learning some powerful emotional and spiritual lessons in the process, I was motivated to offer help to others who might feel alienated and in pain from the loss of their animals. So, I studied with legends Kubler Ross, Stephen Levine, John James (of the Grief Recovery Institute) and others, integrating their work into the learnings of my own heart about the uniqueness of losing deeply beloved animals. Beginning in 1986, I began to offer pet loss support groups and workshops and later created the Legacies of Love audio book and other grief support resources. Since then, I have worked with thousands of grievers in bereavement support workshops and in individual counseling and animal communication consultations. One of my greatest life passions is to help others through this typically disenfranchised loss. I am exceedingly grateful for what I’ve learned from my cherished clients--both humans and animals--who’ve trusted me with their stories of loss, pain and healing,
The curriculum of the program is designed and based on bodies of knowledge and research from the fields of counseling psychology, thanatology, the healing arts, spirituality integrated with the instructor's own experiences of loss and healing grief. The instructors and guest speakers in the program are seasoned professionals who are dedicated and sensitive to the human-animal bond and the pain of pet loss and grief. These instructors represent the professions of counseling psychology, psychotherapy, grief counseling, transpersonal psychology, humanistic education, veterinary medicine, homeopathy, Chinese medicine, animal communication and other healing arts.
If you are attracted to (or are already on) the path of helping others through the grief of pet loss, I invite you to explore the underlying philosophy and the code of ethics of this program to see if it seems like an appropriate learning fit for you.
More details about the program can be found in the sections on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Requirements for Certification, and Class Listings. You need not enroll in the certification program to take individual classes. All classes are open enrollment--available to everyone. Many of the classes are offered with a dual purpose: to directly serve people who are grieving the loss of animal loved ones, and to provide training for professionals.
A loving welcome to all of you who share a great love of animals and a desire to help others heal from loss. May the information and inspiration in the program contribute to the healing of your heart and to your confidence and skill in serving others.
With Love and Blessings,