The Long Goodbye: Women, Companion Animals, and Maternal Loss

Abstract

Heightened and often anxious attachment to companion animals can be one of the sequela of women's unresolved grief over early maternal loss. Clinical data suggest that, especially among women, the death of pets can reactivate the unfinished mourning over the mother. Drawing on one extensive case study, this paper examines this little explored, but commonly experienced relationship. From the perspectives of attachment theory and feminist therapy, the paper addresses the human-animal bond, gender differences in grief, the long term effects of early maternal loss, later attachment style, and companion animals as internalized parent/child figures. Recommendations for treatment are offered to help women work through both losses.

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Margolies, L. The Long Goodbye: Women, Companion Animals, and Maternal Loss. Clinical Social Work Journal 27, 289–304 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1022894320225

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  • women
  • pet loss
  • bereavement
  • maternal death
  • human/animal bond