Dear Brave Friend – dealing with the loss of your pet

I’m so pleased that Leigh Ann Gerk, author of Dear Brave Friend, found time to share this guest post. You’ll find information about her helpful and heartfelt book below, as well as an opportunity to win a copy.

Buy the Book:

Pet Loss: Grief vs. Depression

guest post from Leigh Ann Gerk, MA, LPC

The depth of grief experienced after losing a cherished pet can often catch people off guard; despite knowing it will be heartbreaking to say goodbye to their beautiful friend. For many, the death of their dear pet is harder than losing a human family member.

I’m often asked by clients, “Is it normal if I feel this way?” or they tell me, “I have never felt this sad or lonely before.”  We talk about the relationship they had with their pet and why it was so special.  Human relationships are very important, but they take hard work and effort.  The relationship we have with our pets is so simple; the only requirement is love. When you lose that kind of love, that constant glorious light in your life, not only does your heart break, but your routines change and your whole world feels different.

Throughout this difficult pet loss journey, it is important to recognize what is normal grief and what may be depression. This can be challenging because they share many commonalities. Grief is a natural and normal response to a painful event; it is not a single emotion. Grief has many facets including physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual. Below are examples of grieving behaviors: 

  • Sobbing, crying, being tearful
  • Trouble sleeping or sleep changes
  • Increase or decrease with appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Feelings of anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, guilt etc.…

What is important to remember is that although a grieving person may exhibit the above behaviors, they can still intermittently experience moments of joy.  This type of intense sadness is normal and can last a few months.

Depression can mimic grieving behaviors, but at a greater intensity. If you or a loved one can’t get out of bed for days at a time, have lost or gained a significant amount of weight, are dabbling in self-destructive behaviors, or feel completely worthless and don’t care whether you live or die, it is imperative that you visit a physician or mental health provider. 

Lastly, and most importantly, if you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, please take them seriously and either call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 immediately.

This gentle and heartwarming story captures the love between a boy and his dog, and the sadness that follows after his cherished dog passes away. Written in the form of a letter from the dog to the boy, the letter shares relatable, real life examples of how the boy (and therefore anybody who has lost a dear pet) may be feeling and suggestions on what he can do to help himself get through this most difficult time. The letter also touches on simple acts of kindness that can follow the reader throughout his or her lifetime. The message in this story is applicable to young and old, girl or boy, and to any family pet that has stolen your heart. Story starters, drawing pages, and a place to add pictures of your own beloved pet are also included in the back of the book.

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Meet the Author:

Leigh Ann Gerk MA, LPC has been in the counseling field for over eleven years. She is certified in Pet Loss & Grief Companioning and the founder and owner of Mourning to Light Pet Loss providing individual and family counseling for anyone grieving the loss of a pet. She currently offers 3 free pet loss support groups in Northern Colorado and is excited to branch out and offer more. Having grown up on a farm, Leigh Ann’s childhood playmates included baby calves, horses, bunnies, dogs, and 32 cats that set up house in a boxcar that also served as her playhouse. This upbringing introduced her, at a very young age, to the human-animal bond and instilled in her a deep understanding of, and love for, this extraordinary relationship. Leigh Ann and her husband, Andy, live in Loveland, Colorado, and are the proud parents of identical twin daughters, Heather and Heidi. Their family is made complete by their first grandchild and their cherished therapy dog, Gracie. Visit Leigh Ann online at

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4 thoughts on “Dear Brave Friend – dealing with the loss of your pet

  1. Deborah thank you so much for joining my book tour, requesting a guest post and helping me showcase Dear Brave Friend ! Your support is greatly appreciated.

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