MU creates new counseling program to help those grieving after losing a pet

The University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine is offering emotional support to people who have lost a pet with a new program called Together In Grief, Easing Recovery (TIGER).

TIGER is meant to provide people who have recently lost pets with the support and counseling they need to make it through the difficult situation, said Francesca Tocco, a doctoral student in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and the MU Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction (ReCHAI).

"Companion animals make a strong and lasting mark on the lives of their human counterparts," Tocco said. "This bond does not disappear when those animals pass away. Strong emotional and physical reactions such as grief, pain, shock, anxiety, and guilt are healthy and normal. These reactions can often be overwhelming, which is why TIGER strives to provide assistance and support to those going through this difficult time."

According to MU, the program is free to the MU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital's clients and includes the following support services:

  • Grief counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Advice on how to discuss animal health and death with children
  • Discussion over moral and ethical concerns regarding animal health care
  • Training for veterinary clinicians and students
  • Lessons about handling grief before a pet dies

Rebecca Johnson, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, FANP, director of ReCHAI, professor at the veterinary school as well as the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, said the program helps the school's veterinary professionals better work with clients to guide them through difficult losses.

"The TIGER program is a great opportunity for the researchers at ReCHAI to assist clients at the MU Veterinary Teaching Hospital with the difficult decisions and circumstances they often face surrounding the death of beloved pets," Johnson said. "The program aims to help people during these difficult experiences, and also to assist doctors and students at the VMTH in helping their clients."