Exploring bereaved older adult pet owner's relationship and grief experiences following the death of a companion animal

Date

2016

Authors

Volkmann, Sabine B.J.

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Abstract

Bereaved older adult pet owners experience several grief related obstacles following the death of a beloved companion animal. There is an overwhelming amount of research and published articles that focus on the benefits of pet ownership among older adults. Companion animals provide numerous personal, physical, and emotional benefits to older adults. Additionally, the bond that older adults form with their companion animals may be stronger and more profound than any other age group (Toray, 2004). However, there is limited literature regarding the grief experience of older adults following the loss of a companion animal. The purpose of the current study was to explore and understand the meaning that older adult owners prescribe to owning a companion animal and the grief experience following a loss. Nine older adult pet owners were interviewed for this research. After the interviews were conducted, themes from the data analysis and the essence of this phenomenon emerged using the commonalities among participants. Themes and subthemes included: Ever-present figure, surrogate child, reaction to loss, emergence of loneliness, need for help, disregard of value, pressure to replace and connected grief. Implications for mental health counselors and counselor educators as well as future research are discussed.

Description

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Keywords

Attachment, Bereavement, Companion Animal, Grief, Older adults, Pet loss

Citation

Department

Counseling