When do I get a pet loss counselor: Interview with Anne Catarello

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I recently interviewed Licensed Mental Health Councelor, Anne Catarello, about healing from pet loss grief. She shared helpful insights that may be useful to anyone who is struggling with the loss of a beloved pet. To learn more about Anne and her work, visit gentlepsychotherapy.com or email her at anne@gentlepsychotherapy.com

Erica:

On my blog, I help people with pet loss grief – as well as their family and friends. Knowing how to care for those people is important and today I am excited to introduce Anne Catarello. Anne is a licensed mental health counselor based in Florida. She has a certificate in pet loss grief and bereavement counseling. I wanted to invite Anne on here just to introduce her but also to address the topic of when to see a pet loss counselor.
How do we know when we’ve tipped that point to say you know do I need some extra help? I want to just qualify and say that I questioned my own sanity and said I need to get help. I need to ask somebody “Am I okay?” What do I need to do to heal and get through this? I know it’s a difficult question right?

Anne:

I think it’s an important question because when we are grieving the loss of our pet it’s such a significant loss because the animal-human bond is as you know just precious beyond measure and so it shares similarities definitely with grieving a human being but it also has its own intricacies and so you know one of the first things I like to say about this is grieving – having intense feelings of grief – is really normal. Right?
The grief process is what we’ve been given or what we have inside our bodies. if we allow ourselves to go through it and to feel the painful feelings within a context of support you know we don’t want to isolate during this time although we’ll have sometimes by ourselves of course but if we let ourselves have the painful feelings within a context of support we heal. You know? And that doesn’t mean – I mean our life is forever changed by having this beautiful being in our lives – but we actually can become deeper human beings and locate this pet in our heart and move forward with life but as a changed person for the better.

Now what can happen sometimes with the grieving process is we get stuck. So some of us may get stuck in guilt depending on how our pet died or how we handled it. We can get stuck in blame we can focus on the end of our Pet’s life only. If it was a traumatic end, it can keep coming back over and over in our minds.

Yeah, and then you know when we’re finding it hard to function in our relationships, and our work in our Social Circles those are times – or, and also if we find ourselves getting more depressed where we’re feeling just really bad about ourselves grieving … You oftentimes – when we grieve we can also experience other emotions.

The Grieving may be full-time for a while but then we can still be grieving and experience other emotions too like depression. It’s just all bad right? It’s just all bad, okay? So those are some things I would speak to about that.

Erica:

Yeah, that’s really interesting that you said, you know, “be grieving and have some other emotions” because I mean I definitely myself was in a depressive state for a while. And yet I could tell and say “oh this is normal, this is okay” and I was just watching how long it was going. I had lost interest in a lot of things that I used to love but I did find comfort in being with friends. I didn’t find that there were times of the day when I did enjoy things. I did enjoy just watching movies, right? So it wasn’t that there’s a blanket on everything – space around that depression. And that’s a really really tough area to navigate especially for me.

I speak openly that I struggle with bipolar disorder and so those flags go up right when my moods or circumstances have changed significantly. And mine did because Wolfgang fell out of our apartment and it was a very traumatic loss and death. It was so hard to keep tabs on “how am I doing”? I’m usually really good at being introspective and you know conscientious but this just was like brain fog and let’s party and all this other stuff that I just said.
Oh my gosh. So personally, it didn’t take me very long to reach out and go “excuse me what’s happening”? And it’s okay to do that. I mean, best case scenario – a person reaches out to someone such as yourself and you say, “hey, let’s have a couple of sessions”. And you know what? You’re gonna be okay. Maybe they start feeling better just knowing that their grief is valid right?

Anne:

Yes, that it’s normal.

Erica:

That it’s normal to grieve intensely – and a lot of times that’s all we need to know. And then and then we can let the process go, but I’m glad you brought up the things about getting stuck because that was a big concern of mine and I love my life and I love living life. And I wanted my joy back and I said I have to figure out a way to deal with this trauma and loss without getting stuck because that’s not okay for me. That’s not the kind of life I want to live. And it’s a hard road to go down – really.
Yeah, and then you know … you can’t tell someone, “oh well, you know, you’re just gonna walk through your grief and you’ll have your joy back. But I just want to say to the watchers and listeners that if you’re committed to finding a way to get through it, then you will find a way to get through it.

Anne:

Definitely.

Erica:

That’s the biggest message that I have. Anne, what’s the best way for them to contact you? Do you offer consultations? Like, how does your process go for getting someone working with you?

Anne:

Sure, people can reach out to me via email or telephone. You know, either is fine and I can do like a 10-minute consultation at no charge, and then my sessions are usually a full hour.

Erica:

Okay yeah, and so you happily do telecounseling. You don’t see people in person. Is that right?

Anne:

Right. I’m doing this only telehealth counseling right now.

Erica:

Great, and you’re based in Florida, so that’s Eastern Standard time but you are willing to work with people – uh, for example, I’m in Munich. So nine … that’s a six-hour time difference. So I think that’s feasible.

Anne:

Yeah, that’s doable. Yeah for sure.

Erica:

Well, great! Thanks so much for having this conversation with me and I think …

Anne:

You’re so welcome, you’re so welcome. Thank you again for, you know, giving me this opportunity to share something that’s very close to my heart.

Erica:

Yeah, thank you for doing what you do. We need people like you.

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