EFT Session Involving Grief Over Loss of a Pet

Dear EFT Community,

Valerie Burke, Certified EFT Practitioner shares how EFT can be a tool a client who just lost a beloved pet can use as she moves through her grief process over the loss.

-Stephanie M

By Valerie Burke, Certified EFT Practitioner

LN was referred to me by a friend/colleague. I had never met her before, and she was unfamiliar with EFT.

However, she had received acupuncture in the past and was familiar with the concept of energy and meridians, in a general way. This single session took place in her home. Rapport was established immediately as LN welcomed me into her living room and introduced me to her two dogs—one a Rottweiler, and the other a huge black Newfoundland. LN immediately expressed her desire for help with her grief over the loss of a third dog (about one month prior), whose name was “Bear,” also a Newfoundland.

I expected the client to ask for help with this issue, since it was what prompted her referral to me for EFT.

However, what I didn’t expect was her complicated psychiatric history, which made addressing this client’s grief much more complicated. Briefly, here are the confounding issues. LN has Bipolar Affective Disorder, diagnosed in 1993, and she’s been treated with lithium since her diagnosis. She believes lithium is very helpful in leveling her moods. She also has a history of abuse as a child, although we didn’t discuss the specifics. She has been in a psychiatric hospital at least once for suicidal ideation, at some point in the distant past.

Several years ago, during a manic episode, she became lost in the woods for several hours in the middle of winter, in a short sleeve shirt and no coat, nearly freezing to death. Following that episode, she was diagnosed with PTSD and was treated by a psychiatrist using EMDR.

However, she continues to experience nightmares related to this traumatic event. On top of all that, she has a neurological problem that her physicians are not sure how to treat. Some have labeled it “psychogenic tremor;” she starts shaking violently when she’s under stress.

However, other physicians disagree and believe the tremor has more of a physiological/neurological etiology. She also has some characteristics of aphasia, evident in her difficulty repeating longer sentences back to me during our session. I had noted even before meeting her (from our phone contact) that her thoughts seemed quite confused and she was unable to give me clear directions to her house.

The most recent events in her life have been very stressful.

Her adult son was in a severe accident a few months ago. He is undergoing a long rehab process and is on intravenous antibiotics for a severe infection. There was a period immediately after the accident where she learned he might not survive his injuries. About one week after the accident, while LN was visiting her son in the hospital, she and her husband returned home to find their two Newfoundlands missing from the yard, having somehow gotten loose.

An 18-day search ensued. After two days, one of the dogs (Goliath) was found, in good condition. But the other dog (Bear) was found dead after being struck by a car.

Thanks to the efforts of the entire town in trying to determine what happened, it was discovered that a deputy was negligent in getting Bear to a veterinarian and in fact just left him there in the ditch to die of his injuries and/or exposure. There is now an investigation into this deputy’s negligence, which adds to the intensity of LN’s anger and grief.

I began by having LN tap while she told the story of how Bear was found, as well as the events surrounding his death and the 18-day roller coaster of searching for him, not knowing whether he was dead or alive. I asked her what the worst part of it was. She reported having recurring disturbing visions of Bear lying helpless and injured along the roadside.

As she related this, she immediately became tearful, with obviously high intensity. I decided to employ tearless trauma technique by having her name a movie of Bear lying in the ditch, without viewing the movie. Her SUDS was a 10, and she remained tearful. She named the movie “Abandonment.”

We tapped through three rounds on “Abandonment.”

Her SUDS came down to about an 8, and she was no longer tearful (although she appeared to be lower than an 8 to me). Since she had not come down much in intensity, I used a setup statement in case she might be reversed.

The statement I used was:

“Even though I have these terrible visions, I completely and deeply accept myself and my feelings.”

She hesitated with the acceptance statement.

So I added to the next two setups,

“…Unless I don’t.”

This seemed to make it easier. We then tapped a round of the full basic recipe, with my hand guiding her eyes in a circle, as she was not able to independently make a steady circle with her eyes. Upon completion, she said she was having other intrusive memories related to other events, including her own experience of getting lost in the woods. I suspect the movie title “Abandonment” itself may have brought up some other aspects or traumas. Her SUDS about the movie title was now around 7.

During that round of tapping, she went in and out of tears, but she was a trooper and kept tapping. Since I felt like she was not moving quickly enough out of this pain, and because my intuition told me there was more attached to “Abandonment” than just Bear’s death, I decided to have her tap just on his name. My thought was to get her focused on only this ONE trauma, without other things the word “abandonment” may trigger.

We did two rounds on “Bear.”

She indeed did seem to relax with that change. At the end of those rounds, she began talking about some other less stressful things (unrelated to the loss of her dog), which I just went with as it seemed to be her way of backing away from this very intense session. After a minute or two, I asked her to tell me what her SUDS was on “Abandonment.” She said it had come down “a lot,” to about a 5. As before, she appeared to me to be lower than a 5.

I think it’s possible her intrusive memories of other traumas may have been muddying that number, as she wasn’t completely able to disentangle herself from prior events, having mentioned them off and on several times. We did another round on “Bear,” and this time, she had a vision come to her from a home video she had of Bear sitting on her husband’s lap on the sofa, looking adorable and content.

She said this is how she wanted to remember him.

I thought this was an important shift—the joyful image, instead of the disturbing image of his suffering.

So we “tapped in” this image for a round. At this point, we were at the end of our allotted time.

I didn’t want to leave her hanging, so I coached her through a round of:

“Even though I know I have some more work to do about Bear, I completely love and accept myself.”

“Even though I know I’m not finished with this, I know I have plenty of time to heal. I completely accept myself and my feelings.”

“Even though there is more work for me to do, I have time, and I am allowing myself that time to heal.”

LN appeared calmer and more relaxed at the end of the session than at the beginning. Even though we never made it past the movie title, I think LN now has a tool she can use as she moves through her grief. There are certainly MANY more aspects to this event, far more than could be addressed in one session. I instructed her to just tap any time she feels the tears coming on, and she doesn’t have to say anything... just tap through it.

I left it open for her to contact me if needed, and offered her another session some time in the future.

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