Another Q+A: Showing Emotion In Front of Owners

Posted: Nov 19, 2012
Views: 2074 - Comments: 8

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Q: Is showing emotion in front of owners good or bad? We have a lot of long-time clients, and we see their pets as babies, adults and geriatric patients. It is really difficult to not cry when euthanizing a pet we have seen for years.

If you show emotion because you are feeling the sadness of the situation in the moment, specifically for that family and for that pet, then yes, it is good. The family will perceive that you care about them and their pet and that makes them feel good.

Veterinary professional holding a canine patient.

One of the most gratifying aspects of working in a daytime practice is the bond you develop with the clients and their pets over their lifetime. It is understandable, normal and healthy that scheduling and performing euthanasia in these situations would evoke a deep emotional response in you. When you express the emotions that you are feeling in front of these clients, you are showing your humanity and nonverbally letting them know that this loss matters to you too. It validates that you understand the importance of their bond to their pet. There have been many occasions when people who have attended the pet loss support group have shared, with pride that their veterinary professionals cried during that last appointment.

On the other hand, if something about the client, pet or euthanasia triggers your feelings of personal loss and tears, then no, it is not good.

If your feelings of personal grief take over, then it would be better to leave the room.

Your role in this situation is to take care of the pet and client. It would be inappropriate and unfair for your emotions to "hijack" the moment from the owners and their pet. The client should not feel compelled to comfort you, this is their moment. If you recognize yourself in this situation, this is a good opportunity for you to ask yourself if you have unresolved grief, many of us do. If you do recognize that you have some work to do, you have taken the first step in working through it. It is never too late to resolve unfinished grief work.