Articles for the Month of September 2014

Grieving the Loss of Your Pet

Pet loss

Grieving the loss of your pet

By Cathy Neville, LPC

Loving and being loved by a pet can be an extraordinary exchange of unconditional love, companionship, and loyalty.

Losing that relationship can be devastating and intensely painful.

When a pet dies, some people feel like they’ve lost a family member or their closest companion. For children, it may be a hard first lesson about death. For a senior, it may signal a loss of purpose or connection. For a disabled person, it may mean decreased independence.

Whatever the circumstances, it just hurts.

You miss your friend.

Working through your loss:

  • Let your feelings flow. People are often uncomfortable with grief. You may feel pressured by others to get over it. Don’t hurry your heartache; experience it. It’s okay to hurt. In a way, it honors the depth of your relationship with your pet. Your pet was a loved one. Your pet was your friend. You don’t have to be embarrassed about missing that relationship and you don’t need to suppress or hide it. You’ll let go when you’re ready to let go. Cry, yell, and gradually work your way through the emotions. Don’t rush it.
  • Look for support that understands your pain. Gather people around you that understand the hole left in your life by your pet’s absence. Talk to friends and neighbors who interacted with you and your pet. Find a grief support group online or in your community. Take the opportunity to talk to a counselor about your loss.
  • Forgive yourself. You may be experiencing some guilt depending on the manner of your pet’s death. If the loss was tragic or sudden, it’s natural to feel responsible. It’s important to work through those feelings, rather than suppress them, remind yourself that you did your best to love and protect your pet. If you made the hard decision to euthanize, you may feel an extra measure of responsibility in the loss. Remind yourself why you made that final loving decision. Most likely your pet was suffering. You made the wise decision to ease your pet’s transition from life to death. Take comfort in that.
  • Try to maintain routines. No doubt, it hurts to go on maintaining your regular sleeping and waking schedule, running errands, or exercising, especially if you’re used to having him or her right beside you or greeting you at the door. However, in order to recover, you must take care of yourself mentally and physically. Try to maintain your energy with regular meals, support your ability to cope with rest, and elevate your mood with regular exercise.
  • Treasure the memories.  Honor your pet’s life. Celebrate and share how much your relationship meant to you. A photo album, donation to an animal shelter in your pet’s name, or a tree or shrub planted somewhere meaningful may help bring the happiness you shared with your pet into focus and ease your pain over time.

When other people minimize your pain:

You may find your heartbreak amplified by friends or loved ones who don’t understand, appreciate, or even acknowledge the depth of your feelings for your pet or how close a bond you shared.

Try the following key strategies for managing those moments:

  • Recognize that you have a right to grieve without justifying that grief. Refuse to debate whether or not you should be sad.
  • Accept that though loved ones mean well, they are sometimes not the best gauges of our emotional needs.
  • Consider safe places in which to work through your grief. Share your feelings with a therapist or other people who are invested in helping you move through it.

Talk Therapy for Treating Social Anxiety



How the conversations you have with your therapist are an integral part of the cure.

Is Social Anxiety limiting your life?

Maybe it scares you to think about making the toast at a wedding. Perhaps every interaction is cause for overwhelming apprehension and a run for the nearest exit. Either way, you’re not in control of the emotions or behaviors that plague your connections with other people. Either way, it’s time to seek help.

If you’re tired of the restrictions your social anxiety is placing on your life and feel that the time is right for exploring therapeutic options, talk therapy may be an excellent avenue to consider.

So, what is talk therapy?

The name “talk therapy” may seem worrisome, after all social situations are already nerve-wracking for you. How will you manage talking about your problem with a therapist?

Try not to add therapy to your list of worries.

Give yourself time with an experienced therapist who seems to be a good fit.

Keep in mind the relational and social rewards for opening up in a safe place.

Your therapist is a person who already understands the nature of your problem and is intent on helping you conquer your fears.

Here’s what you need to know:

Talk therapy is simply a broad term encompassing a range of psychological treatments that encourage verbal exchange as a means of working through emotional problems and their triggers.

The first approach to talk therapy originated with psychoanalysis (think Freud or Carl Jung), soon to be followed by current, popular types of talking therapy like rational emotive therapy, person-centered therapy, group therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), among others.

The key factor for all the talk therapies is their common dependence on improving your ability to cope through purposeful conversations between you and your therapist. The goal is to discover the underlying reasons for your fear.

Your therapist assists you in finding the control you seek.

He or she actively listens to you, talks with you about past issues, non-judgmentally questions current worries and concerns, and gently, respectfully challenges you to assess the validity of your poor self concept and fears about the way you are perceived.

Your therapist wants to engage you in discussions that will help arrive at a cure for your social anxiety, not judge you or cause more embarrassment and self-conscious feelings.

What can I expect from talk therapy?

Often, clients in CBT can meet with their therapist once a week for about three to four months (16 sessions) and see positive results. It is also important to note that people with social anxiety have experienced a significant improvement in symptoms from both individual sessions and group sessions shared with other people suffering from similar social anxiety symptoms. Whatever the method, social anxiety counseling allows you to uncover the roots of your worry.

Studies show that talk therapy is an effective way to heal the mind. It is a vital partner to any drug treatment. While it may be tempting to alleviate your anxiety with a mask of medications, real change comes from finding and facing the source of your worry.

Working with a therapist puts you in charge of your healing process.

The chance to safely view your social anxiety with your therapist helps you recognize, examine, and cope with your fears and negative perceptions more effectively. In the therapy setting, hope returns and shared human connections start to reframe your social interactions and restructure your thoughts.

You’ll begin to feel better.

Talk therapy will begin to fulfill a common human need to be heard, understood, and, when necessary, encouraged to see things differently.

Does My Loved One Have Clinical Depression?

By Cathy Neville, LPC

Clinical depression

Clinical depression

Warning signs for friends and family members

When someone you love is in pain, you sense it immediately. Something in the way he or she talks, moves, or looks at you alerts you and spurs you to reach out.

You can see that this is more than the blues or a bad couple of weeks. He or she is hurting deeper than you can really see or they are willing to share. The person you knew seems lost and withdrawn.

Is this depression? How can you help?

Look and listen for the following signs:

  • General Negativity. Your loved one seems unable to see the brighter side of any situation. His or her mood and comments are pessimistic and the overall attitude is discouraged and resigned.
  • Anger. You notice that it doesn’t take much to aggravate or irritate your friend or family member now. He or she has a very short fuse. Short tempered, possibly even violent, outbursts have become commonplace.
  • Low Self-worth. When you listen to your loved one talk about his or her life, the number of criticisms, harsh put-downs, and self-deprecating comments concern you. Whether he or she is referencing his or her own physical characteristics, abilities, or relationships, your loved one doesn’t seem to have anything positive or complimentary to say.
  • Loss of Interest. Pleasurable activities are suddenly too much work. Your loved one no longer pursues the hobbies or activities he or she used to love. Invitations to go on outings, travel, or attend community events are repeatedly turned down for solitary time at home, surfing the web, or video games.
  • Food/Weight Issues. How your loved one deals with food may be an important indicator of his or her emotional state. If you notice significant weight loss or gain over a short period of time, he or she may be using food to manage the emotional pain.
  • Forgetfulness or Trouble Making Decisions. Your friend or family member seems to struggle to stay focused. Mundane things appear to be a challenge. He or she is constantly forgetting things at home or leaving things behind when you go out. He or she may seem indecisive or distracted when talking with you.
  • Loss of Energy. From the outside it looks as if your loved one’s life has slowed to a turtle’s pace. He or she seems exhausted most of the time. Sleep never seems to revive or re-energize. Even his or her speech seems slower. He or she is always drained and lethargic.
  • Sleep problems. If you share a home with your loved one, it may appear that, despite the fatigue, rest doesn’t come easy. You may notice insomnia hinders his or her ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, exacerbating the cycle of low energy and problems with concentration. On the other hand, perhaps all he or she wants to do is sleep, also known as hypersomnia.
  • Mystery Illness or Pain. Depression can be physically painful. You may hear frequent complaints of headaches, stomach problems, or muscle pain. You might also notice an increase in your loved ones’ doctor visits, with no conclusive clear medical diagnoses.
  • Suicidal Thoughts or Statements. Any comment referencing self-harm or suicide, no matter how off-hand or flippant, should not be ignored. If your friend is hurting enough to mention suicide, he or she needs your help and professional attention immediately.

If many of these symtpoms sound all too familiar and confirm your suspicions, your friend or family member is lucky to have you.  Encourage your friend or family member to call an experienced counselor for help right away.    Clinical depression doesn’t go away on its own.