Another Q+A: Showing Emotion In Front of Owners

Posted: Nov 19, 2012
Views: 2374 - 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.

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Comments

Dominique Scruggs's picture

I really liked this, as I am just starting out in this profession. I find I am a sympathy crier, I see tears or sadness felt by owners, for their pain. Though for awhile I was unsure if this was an appropriate feeling and would just try to keep my tears at bay for fear of somehow offending the owners.

Gretchen Brittain's picture

After 14 years with one hospital i have gotten to know some families and their pets from the very wee beginnings through to the last, tearful day. I know they appreciate the bond we have all formed, and so do i. Thanks for interesting read.

Phillipe Maxwell's picture

Just playing the devil's advocate. Let's say the euthanasia of a pet reminds you of a pet you lost. To show emotion in front of a client that has no idea of your inner monologue is inappropriate?

Neil Moss's picture

As a veterinarian for over 30 years I have always appreciated the opportunity to be honest with my feelings. I must feel sadness, especially in the situation of euthenizing a pet. I teach my Technicians that we need to build a protective wall around our heart because this will eventually drive you from the profession with emotional burn out. However the wall must never be so high that you don't feel the pain and don't show it. A very delicate balance. If you don't show those feelings in front of the client they will have to come out at some point; someone , somewhere will have to deal with your melt down.

Meghan Meyer's picture

Euthanasia can be a hard thing to do for families and showing emotion can be a comfort.

Sarah Arnell's picture

I can see where showing emotion fan help in some cases and hinder others.

Racine Guimond's picture

I tend to get attached very easily to friendly pets and owners. (Try not to but it just happens) Have been in the field for about three years now. A lead vet tech told me once when I was just starting out that it was unprofessional to cry in front of owners. These feelings are so hard to hold in sometimes. Its not as bad as one of my own passing but it does get to you. This article has opened my eyes. Not going to go balling at every euthanasia now but at least I know its ok to be human and let out a tear every now and again. Thanks alot for writing this!

Deborah Hutter's picture

When I am comforting a client who is euthanizing their pet, my grief is often twofold, I'm sorry for the loss of the pet but I also relive the decision of putting my own pets to sleep. I think the key is to not cry harder than the client, and I try to be as discrete as possible. I don't let it get out of hand. Sometimes it's the people who bring their children to see the body of the pet, nothing worse than when the kids bawling in panicked voices asking why the beloved pet is not waking up, or not coming home.... that's when I'll take a walk.... everytime.