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The Art of Shifting Language

Show Notes

I’m a word nerd.

I took linguistics courses toward my bachelor’s degree and I’ve been a professional writer for more than 30 years.

Words matter to me.

And recently I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the language and words we use around death, loss and grief, particularly when we’re talking about our companion animals.

So I brought back my fellow word nerd and friend of the pod, Beth Bigler, for her third appearance.

Beth, who has become so well known for her Instagram account, @honoringouranimals, is a certified pet loss grief counselor and pet chaplain.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in arts and has over 20 years of experience in film, including in writing. Heck, she’s even an instructor at New York Film Academy in their screenwriting and producing departments.

Beth even uses writing in her counseling, helping her grief clients navigate their journey of love and loss with their pets through the power of story.

What to listen for

  • Some of our terminologies with pet loss grief are old-fashioned
  • Our beliefs about death influence the way we talk about it
  • The challenges of language when discussing death
  • Our words can create moments of self-compassion and self-loathing
  • Why we hate the terms “pet loss grief” and “end of life pet photography”

Where to find Beth

HonoringOurAnimals.com

Instagram

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The Art of Chasing Rainbows

Transcript

Angela   0:03 

Hey my fellow, word nerd. How are things for you today?

Beth  0:06 

I’m peachy keen, word nerd.

Angela

Welcome back for the third time best Bigler.

Beth  0:25 

Hey, trifecta. Let’s go,

Angela   0:27 

Oh my god, am I gonna need to get you a jacket like Saturday Night Live Five timer kind of thing.

Beth  0:34 

Maybe for my fifth time I could get some like, cool swag. I’m here for it. I’m ready.

Angela   0:41 

I will do that. One of the reasons I brought you back today is because I’m stuck on this idea of the language around death, loss and grief and euthanasia. And if I may share with you an incident I had recently, um, I was sitting at a table. And this woman kept talking about putting her dog down, putting her dog down, putting her dog down. And I grew up with that language. But for whatever reason, since I’ve been embedded in this world of pet loss, grief, for the last several years, it felt icky. Why?

Beth

You tell me?

Angela

Good question. I think it’s because we learn … we don’t learn about death and die. And so we have this really awkward approach to it when it does happen. And it of course carries it … carries with it negative undertones. Of course, we’re losing someone or some pet, right? Is there then a way to make it a more positive experience? Can it be a more positive experience by shifting the language?

Beth  2:17 

Well, we know the way we talk to ourselves, the way we talk to others, the way we use words to express can have a powerful impact on how we experience and feel and move through things. Like there’s research all over that, right like the way we talk, the way we think, the way we lay down patterns in our brains is super important. So I guess the short answer is yes. But I think the challenge here for people is how do we begin to reframe our language around something where frankly, we have nothing? We have no other models and why is that? Well, we live in a grief avoidant, death avoidant culture, where not only do we not know anything really about grieving and mourning and, and death and how do we move through grief. But we also don’t know how to talk about it. And in fact, we don’t know how to talk about it with ourselves. We don’t know how to talk about it with other people, which is why we have so many awkward conversations, or worse, no conversations at all.

So I think, you know, when it comes to like, how do we improve this for people, we kinda got to figure out like where to begin. And, and one thing, one thing that can be very supportive is to get into dialogue with ourselves. And frankly, right now, before like, even if you’re not in the middle of a loss, even if you’re not actively grieving, or if you are, sit down with yourself and make a list of every single thing that you remember ever being taught or told, or modeled about death and loss and grieving, this is something I do with my pet loss, grief counseling clients all the time. Write down every single message you’ve ever received every single language usage. You ever heard, who taught you that? And how do we feel about it now? Like if we could rewrite some of those messages that we were told, what might they say? Because you might write down? Well, you know, we put our dog to sleep, or we let him go, or we put him down. And we might look at that and say to ourselves, it might feel better to me to say I helped him complete his life. I helped him transition or I euthanized him, right. So we can we can start this dialogue with ourselves. But first we got to know what’s floating around in there, what has stuck from our past.

Angela   4:30 

Well, I know that were separated by 10 years, but we both identify as Gen X. Me very much so I’m Gen X through and through. We did grow up in a time where pets, especially dogs and cats, I think were more disposable, shall we say? And today they are viewed more as family members by many people. Does the language then of euthanasia, at putting your dog down and putting a dog to sleep or taking the dog to the farm, as we were told that one point, is that an anachronism of the ways we viewed pets in the past compared to how we are now?

Beth  5:28 

Yeah, I think when we hear people say those words I associate those words as kind of old fashioned, right? I mean, that’s something my dad might say, or my grandpa might say, you know, like I yeah, I don’t know. Put them down. Yeah, that’s nothing any of my contemporaries would say so I suppose in a certain way that might be, you know, old school. But I also think a lot of my contemporaries, and a lot of the people I work with don’t have better language, and they haven’t thought about what they’d rather say. So I hear that repeated, you know, because we don’t, we don’t have other options. Now, the word euthanize is fascinating, right? Because many people don’t like it. They hate this word. People don’t want to use it. You know, guardians I work with are like, I don’t like the word which is fascinating, right? Because if we know anything about where the word euthanasia comes from, it comes from the Greek words eu meaning good. And then a Thanatos, right, which means death. So the meaning of the word euthanasia means a good death. And that’s a beautiful thing. Right? In theory, not every euthanasia is peaceful, not every euthanasia goes well, but just in terms of the language, but very fascinating to me that that has such a negative connotation still for people when you know, the root words what the word actually means it means a good death. So I’m fascinated that people hate that so much.

Angela   6:55 

And ultimately, we’re also trying to change the view around euthanasia as it not being a last desperate act, but a compassionate loving act, right?

Beth  7:08 

Well, certainly, again, yeah, well, every circumstance is different too, right. But in, in a in a world where we can plan a euthanasia or choose a euthanasia, as a way to end suffering and to give a, you know, peaceful, non chaotic death to our beloved, certainly, it’s not something to, you know, like, it’s not a word to detest, in my view, but many people don’t like it. I think for some people, it feels very medical, right, because the only time we hear the word euthanize or euthanasia is in sort of, you know, a medical setting. But oftentimes, I ask people, I … people come to me all the time I’m working with I don’t know what to say, I don’t want to say I’m putting to sleep or I laid them to rest or, you know, and to what do I say? And I was like, Well, what about euthanize? And very often they’re like, no, not doing it don’t like it. So it’s not popular. But it may be accurate.

Angela   8:00 

Do you think the words around euthanasia, putting your dog down, do you think it impacts the decision making process? About? Like, I’m not I don’t, I don’t want to? I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to plan it. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want to do it, because it all just sounds negative.

Beth  8:19 

Well, a recurring theme, you know, for many people in an anticipatory grief moment is I don’t want to kill my soulmate. I don’t want to murder my best friend. So of course, many people experience those feelings. And so they are equating in their minds, the word and the act of euthanasia, as murder. And that I think, is a barrier for people viewing it as, you know, a positive option or a loving, compassionate option. I don’t know if that has to do with the language I think that has to do with how people feel about the discomfort of making this massive life and death decision which is extremely difficult and frankly, something we don’t have to do very often. So we don’t have a lot of confidence in our ability to do it. So I think around language you know, if you are if your critical voice is telling you you’re murdering or you’re killing and the equivalent to you is euthanasia,  I think your language and words are gonna get weird in your head.

Angela   9:21 

As a pet loss grief therapist, counselor, counselor,

Beth  9:25 

I’m not a therapist. Certified grief counselor. Yeah.

Angela   9:30 

Who also spends time as a pet chaplain are there cultural or religious considerations that influence the language that you’re aware of?

Beth  9:47 

Well, certainly, I mean, I think beyond religion too, a spiritual, you know, sort of beliefs. You and I have had discussions about the Rainbow Bridge. You know, there are many people who feel comfortable when talking about the death, saying you you know, my cat went to the Rainbow Bridge or my cat crossed the Rainbow Bridge or journey into the Rainbow Bridge. That’s a very comfortable human euphemism for people. Right? So that is not necessarily religious, but that’s kind of a spiritual belief. There are many people, of course, who feel comfortable with, you know, my beloved, you know, walked into the eternal trail or you know, sail , went to sail the eternal seas, I’ve heard language like that before, or many people, of course, became my beloved became an angel, or my beloved joined God. Some people say God took him or God chose him, right, or something like that.

So I think, yes, where we are coming from, from sort of a spiritual perspective, you know, informs how we think about it, how we talk about it. I sort of like terminology, just personal to me, I mean, I like the word transition, because I do believe that death is a transition. And of course, we don’t know, nobody knows for sure what happens. But I know that, you know, when we have this transition, we leave our earthly body where we leave our physical form. So I think about those kinds of words a lot when I think about, you know, you know, when Arnie died, he sort of left his earthly body. I mean, he no longer was in that body. He transitioned, but I don’t, I don’t, you know, I don’t have exact language about where exactly he is, but I think about it very much in sort of a physical presence, earthside presence. That is the thing that happens in the transition. So those are words I use.

Angela   11:30 

Do your, do your clients frequently struggle with conceptions around euthanasia and death, based on a lot of the words that we use?

Beth  11:45 

Well, I don’t in the decision making process, I don’t know so much. But I think afterward, you know, a huge fear that many people have is what do I say? Like, what do I tell people about what happened? I’m afraid to tell people that my beloved has died. I mean, died is a word that most people don’t like to use, they don’t want to use it. And a lot, you know, and I actually, I get heat on some of my instagram videos, because I use the words dead or death. And a lot of people say to me, a lot of people say to me, why do you use the words dead when you talk about you have this ongoing relationship with Arnie and your relationship with RNA continues, and you believe that, you know, we are in a continued relationship with our beloved, which I do believe that, um, but dead and death is a physical thing. That is a word that I feel comfortable using, I am comfortable saying Arnie died, he died and left his earthly body. But many people are so afraid of the word died or dead. It’s very scary to them.

So a lot of my clients, we … I script people, I help people write scripts, here’s what I’m gonna say about this, this and this. And that extends to social media. People are very afraid to write a tribute. What do I say? Do I say, you know, Zelda died? Do I say Zelda transitioned? But if I say transition, people might not know what that means. And so then when they really understand that she’s dead, you know, I mean, it’s really this is yeah, so I think my the anxiety I experience with clients is about what do I say after the fact? How do I announce it? What do I write on the Christmas card? How do I write, you know, you know, she died this year? I mean, I’m not comfortable with that, I don’t like that word. You know. So a lot of that kind of thing. I think there’s a lot of tension, not just when it happens, but kind of forever, about what do we say? How do we talk about it? A lot of my clients won’t use the word died or dead. They say things like, you know, she had her sunset, right? That’s like, a way to think about it. Or some of my clients say she left, you know, when she left. But then other people, they don’t like that, because I wish she didn’t leave. She’s with me always. Right. So lots of tension around I think how we talk about it after the fact and anxiety.

Angela   13:58 

Yeah, for me, as a newspaper writer, it’s died. And now as an editor, we have the young kids coming in, and they will write passed away, because they have to soften it for whatever reason. No, we’re not in marketing and communications here, child, it’s died, they died. It’s a shorter way of saying it, you know, we look at an economy of words in newspapers. And so I’ve never been afraid of the word died and passed away just feel so. Ah, I mean, people aren’t going to see my body motions right now. But it’s like, it’s just such a flaccid way of saying something. So it doesn’t mean anything to me, but that’s me and my experiences, right?

Beth  14:56 

Yeah. Then again, I think that’s probably a an older term they do on old school, like the old school terms, I think passed away. It’s something like my grandparents said a lot about people. Yeah, no, but nobody I was growing up saying they crossed over. I didn’t hear any language like that. Right? All right.

Angela   15:17 

So how do you navigate the discussions around euthanasia with your clients who are in anticipatory grief or the after grief, around if they’re struggling with the language?

Beth  15:35 

Well, I have to say a lot of struggles people have with language are things they are coming to me with that other people have said. So no, we did an entire episode on this. You and I did about the types of things that people sometimes say that are boneheaded and misguided. So you know, please go listen to that episode, if you want to hear us rant on that, because we totally get down on that. But I, you know, in some ways, I think this sort of tension that we’re discussing here has a lot to do also with the way people talk to us about death in general. And so a lot of the things that people come to me with, you know, when I’m seeing them weak doing them, Hey, how you doing? How’s it going? They’re telling me things that people have said that made them very uncomfortable, or that really, you know, like, an example, not totally specific to euthanasia, but about grief is like, Have you moved on yet? Okay, are you need to move on? Now, or, or even, you need to move forward? That can create a lot of tension for people, because if I’m moving forward, does that mean that, you know, my grief, and the loss of my beloved is in the past? Is that like, so? Is that backward? And so that, like anything was moving in front of it can be very fraught. So, you know, in that case, we talk about, okay, well, what feels right to you. And if you if you want to correct that, if you want to gently say, hey, like, here’s how I think about it. Like a lot, a lot of the people I work with, we talked about, like moving with, you know, moving with my grief and moving with my beloved. And we are moving. And personally, I enjoy the phrase moving through. But a lot of people don’t like that with grief, right? Because that implies there’s something to move through to get to somewhere else. Right? So moving with can be a way like just on that note, if someone says, moving on or moving forward, I’m moving with it, you know, I teach a lot of my clients to sort of respond with language that feels authentic and comfortable for them. So that we can kind of subtly teach people the way we want to be spoken to. Now, sometimes you have to be a lot more direct. But I really like, you know, empowering my clients to speak about it the way they want to speak about it. Same things, go live them past tense, present tense, a lot of my clients really struggle. Do I talk about my beloved and past tense or present tense? And you know, with all of this stuff, Angela, you know, this is deeply personal. So I always say to people, we have to do what works for us, we have to do what feels authentic to us. And for many of the clients I work with, it’s much more comfortable for them to speak in present tense. A lot of my clients joke about using the royal we, you know, weird Arne and I are doing this, Arne and I are hosting a memorial service on Instagram. I do I think all the time that Arne and I are in collaboration, doing things, and I teach my clients, I want them to feel in collaboration with their Beloved’s all the time. That’s one way we can continue our relationship live in their legacy, and feel connected. So you know, that’s a great model. But it gets tricky when we’re then talking about them in past tense as if there’s something that doesn’t exist anymore. So lots of tension, you know, do I speak and present or past and I always say to people, whatever feels right. And if you slip into past tense for sometimes and you’re in present tense other times, that’s okay, too. Because the number one thing about anything in grief, especially language is to not get too rigid with ourselves. And you know, what, what feels good over time? might change. You know, like language around how do we celebrate like the death anniversary date? That’s a huge topic for my for my folks. Right? So much tension around that isn’t even a day to celebrate? That’s one question. But another question is, well, what do I call it? And I spend time with people like, you know, how do I think about this day? How do I talk about it, and it’s different for everybody. Some people love the phrase Angel Versary. Right. Some people like it as a remembrance day, some people like it as acknowledgement day, some people like the kind of word anniversary. But for other people that feels to celebratory, right? So, you know, I think this language tension isn’t just about the immediate moment. It’s like the whole the rest of your life grief, how am I talking about it? How am I presenting it? How am I being judged for it? And how do I? How do I find my own lexicon to speak it?

Angela   19:53 

There’s also a level of showing ourselves compassion and being kind to ourselves with our words as well, isn’t there?

Beth  20:04 

Well, yes, yes. Yes. Like, what are some of your red flag words when you know, you’re not talking kindly to yourself, you must have some.

Angela   20:14 

Oh, I call myself an asshole all the time. You know, if I’m direct and honest with other people, I gotta be direct and honest with myself. So I’m an asshole.

Beth  20:25 

Mm hmm. That’s pretty mean. Well, certainly, I mean, it’s a huge focus on my work is working with guilt, right? Because pretty much every, that’s a lot. I’ve never worked with a client who did have some level of shame, guilt or regret about things in their animal’s life or things in their force.

Angela   20:43 

I said, for years, I killed my best friend. That’s right.

Beth  20:47 

Well, and that’s not a very kind, compassionate way to talk to yourself, right. And so you know, guilt is the one of the top two things people come to me for, right. And I have a ton of I’m a guilt Master, I got a ton of tools, I got all kinds of ways we can dial guilt down and help people really release a lot of that and get it in a in a right sized kind of space. And in order to do that part of the work has to be about becoming more self compassionate with yourself, dialing down your inner critic, and really starting to understand that this sort of like modality you’ve been in for a lot of years, kind of beating yourself up and keeping yourself quote, accountable to quote high standards, it’s actually just a cruel way to kick yourself down the stairs. And I have words that I don’t like my clients to use, and I tell them what they are. And sometimes if they use them in session, I hold up my arms and this big X, and I’m like, no, no, it was a reminder to not say those words. So absolutely. I believe there are there is language, and there are words, we need to catch and not say things to ourselves. My least favorite word during grief is should, huh? When people start shitting all over themselves. This is not a kind, compassionate moment, I should be doing this, I should have done that. I should if I really cared about anything that comes after, should I really if my clients use the word should in a session after a certain point, after I’ve taught them, you know, I’m like, we do a big sound effect. And I teach them replacement words for should so one of my favorite placements is I aspire to, instead of I need to wear a half to where I should or I must or I ought to, then that sounds like your mother, you ought to do this. Maybe not your mother, my mother, you know. So it’s like, what does it feel like to say I aspire to spend more time working on my scrapbook project, as opposed to I should be working on my scrapbook project feels completely completely different. You know, it would make my life easier if I took a walk each day because I know, I feel a little better getting my getting my exercise in instead of I have to exercise every day, you know when we should and have to and must and ought to it really set ourselves up for a lot of negativity. So that’s a big set of words that I like to replace. In other words I don’t really like to allow in sessions is overreact. I think I’m overreacting.

Angela   23:05 

Oh, big wow.

Beth  23:09 

Big word I like to replace, you know, and, you know, we’re allowed to have strong reactions, we are grieving. We are having huge responses and reactions and emotional roller coasters every single day. And so whenever someone comes in and says, I’m worried I’m overreacting, we gotta set that word straight. Because these are stories that we tell ourselves. And these are old scripts that we are reinforcing. And if there’s any opportunity in grief, and I believe there are opportunities and grief, I think a huge opportunity is we get to really start changing the way we treat ourselves about all of it. And one of the ways we begin to change the way we treat ourselves is how we talk to ourselves and how we treat ourselves and how we, how we, how we connect with ourselves through speaking. And I teach a lot of my clients how to speak to themselves out loud, so that we can retrain what the brain wants to do, because otherwise your brain is going to keep going down those muddy old tracks. It’s been going on for all these years, all of our harsh criticism ourselves that did that started so before our beloved’s gotten to the picture, it’s an old script. And so we got to start retraining ourselves to speak differently. And one of the best ways to do that is by talking out loud and saying the thing you want to say so that your brain actually hears it, instead of just thinking it.

Angela   24:24 

Yeah. Okay. So I’m Kaylee and I have been engulfed in anticipatory grief. And I have been working with Beth Bigler through my anticipatory grief and learning how to be kind and compassionate to myself and say things that are loving for me. And then I go to the vet and I don’t encounter the kind of language that Beth Bigler has helped me start to use to be more kind and compassionate to myself. What happens then?

Beth  25:12 

What did the vet say that, you know, what the vet say?

Angela   25:17 

Well, it’s been a while for me, but you know, it’s time to put your dog down. It’s time to put your dog to sleep. You have to euthanize your dog. And you know, those … are those not phrases that I mean, we’ve already established that they can be triggering or activating. So how do we manage ourselves in that moment when the person we trust to know when our dog’s life must end?

Beth  25:56 

Well, yeah, anytime we’re working with an animal care provider who has a different sort of alignment with us about how they’re going to speak to us, regardless of what it is, I mean, I don’t hear a lot. I don’t hear that feedback, a lot of veterinarian saying things like that, which is a good thing. I’m hoping that isn’t happening very often in that way. But I mean, geez, I I’m sorry, I’m thinking about one of my experiences, you know, with Arnie’s death, that was very painful or bad. Event tech said something just really rough after Arnie died that, you know, and that was before I was fat loss, grief counseling before I knew about all this, and even though now I know, and oh my gosh, I have so much empathy for any veterinary care professional, they have tough jobs. But this person said something to me, that should not have been said it was so damaging. And like, I had done a lot of anticipatory grief counseling. So I’m thinking about your scenario. So I had a lot of tools in my toolbox that I would have had otherwise, but um, so I know what you mean, like boneheaded, I won’t even repeat it really. I can’t repeat it, because I just think would damage someone else. But I. But, um, so I think like thinking back to that experience for myself, but of course, I have a lot of clients who have, you know, challenges with communication in this way. I think, you know, one of the things we can do, if we’re in a situation where we’re hearing language that feels very, I’m gonna say, I’m gonna use the word offensive, it was kind of a blanket statement, it sounds offensive, it doesn’t resonate with you, I think the first thing to do is to, you know, kind of recognize within yourself, okay, I’m having a I’m having a big I’m having a big reaction, right, not an overreaction, I’m having a strong reaction to this word, and it’s okay, if I want to take a second or take a minute to sort of reframe it for myself, right? And think about what’s being said to me, right, and, you know, put my dog down if the veterinary professionals that have to put your dog down. And I know that that means you know, compassionate euthanasia, then maybe you like, say to yourself, Okay, he’s trying to suggest that there’s going to be, you know, euthanasia, it’s time for euthanasia, or something, um, you can kind of read talk it to yourself, however, like, I also think we have a lot of options now, if we have time, about how we create the death for our beloved and, and what what is important to you, and what language do you want to use around it and kind of Who do you want to be working with. And so like, I’m a big advocate of working specifically with hospice vets, who tend to have like a lot of specialty and kind of how to talk to kind of grieving and anticipatory people who might be a little more sensitive around these issues. Or if you’re working with an in home euthanasia company, and you’re talking to them, and you’re deciding if you want them to come, you can express your preferences about how you would like things said, Right. Fascinating. I don’t want to get it wrong. There was a documentary made about lap of love. And I’m a lot beloved fan, I’ve used Lavell love personally. And there was a documentary that that I think they made or someone made about them, and what they do, and they and they, they talk in there about the language they use and how they have their veterinarian say different things to indicate that the animal has died and they don’t use the word die. They say two different things, you know, and even when I was having my own lab of love experience last May, I was curious what the doctor was gonna say, you know, for that moment, because I was like, What, What’s he gonna say, you know, and, and so, and it was, it was fine. You know, it was not offensive to me. But I think um, you know, all of this, whenever we receive something like that from a professional or provider of any kind, when we receive something that doesn’t resonate with us, we hopefully if we’ve done our own homework and checked in with okay, what are what are some words I don’t like? What are some words I like, Well, what was I taught what what do I want to unlearn what I want to teach myself? If we’ve sort of developed our own vocabulary around it? If you’ve been working with me, and someone says something like that, you would take them in it, you’d allow yourself the big reaction that you’re having, and then you would decide how you would respond. A big thing I work on with people, especially in anticipatory is reaction versus response. And it’s okay to have any kind of reaction we want, whatever it is, but we don’t always have to make a response with the same feelings that come up in that reaction. So I would probably, if they had been working with me, they probably have a big reaction. And then think, how do I want to respond to this, and that may look like, hey, going forward, I would like you to use this language, instead of the language you’ve just used. Or it might look like, I’m not gonna say anything, because it doesn’t really matter. Like say whatever you want to say, I know my system and values and how I’m thinking about this, you know, I mean, you get to decide what you want to do with it. But um, you know, I certainly, if someone had been working with me, and anticipatory, I wouldn’t expect that kind of misalignment in conversation to put any of my people off their game.

Angela   30:46 

What I’m hearing there is similar to an episode I did with a gal named Sheryl Green, around setting appropriate boundaries, including for the language that we use, or would like others to use for us.

Beth  31:04 

1,000%. Yeah. And that’s tricky. And it’s very tricky. You know, people, especially in medical settings, they feel like they can’t assert themselves, or that they know less, or a lot of people feel like they fall into kind of a submissive, submissive position. In veterinary settings. That’s the thing a lot of us get trained to do. And that’s something I work extensively with people on how to talk to and communicate with their care providers. And you know, what I tell a lot of people, if you are not comfortable setting boundaries, verbally, you can always set boundaries and writing and you can iron, you can write that write down your list of, hey, here’s how I would like to, you know, interact and talk about this. And you can hand it to them before your appointment, or you can email it to them. So that you know, you don’t if you’re very uncomfortable setting boundaries, and we don’t have enough time in our in our grief counseling to like get your boundaries in order. That’s another way to do it. In fact, in my own experience, I’ve had a ton of medical trauma, I have severe medical trauma from severe medical things that have happened in my life. And I actually have something written up for a very specific situation, I get into a doctor’s and I hand it to them, if I’m seeing a new provider about a certain kind of thing. And I say, when you do this, it’s for my eyes, when you do my eye exam, here are like three things that I need from you to feel safe and comfortable and to be your best patient. And please don’t do these three things, because that will make me very anxious. And I already have a lot of anxiety around this. So I have a list written up for that situation. And that’s the kind of thing I have my clients do. Because when we get into a situation, it might be hard to verbally assert a boundary. But if we make a game plan ahead of time of like, here’s like how I want to talk about this, and here’s how I want to, and I say, you know, I teach my clients to say, you know, May I follow up with you via email, if I have any questions, or if I have any. And you know, every veterinarian says yes to that veterinarians, really, they welcome getting follow up, because they want to make sure that your concerns are being addressed. And for many people, even setting boundaries, and person can be really tricky. So I like to practice that verbally with people. But for a lot of a lot of people I work with, it’s very hard in an emotional moment. So I’m a big fan of writing them down and either giving them at the appointment or having a permanent note in your file about it, or emailing in advance or all three.

Angela   33:27 

Throughout time. Language has evolved in so many ways, and we can be resistant to change in a lot of ways. I won’t bring up any specific circumstances or anything, but as we move, as, as there is this movement with people like you and me, who are advancing the idea of hurt loss, grief and the normalization of it, the validation of it. Is it not true that the language has no choice but to change? Evolve?

Beth  34:15 

Well, I believe it already is. I’m super proud of my work on that front. You know, I have done a lot and I didn’t invent anything right. But I have popularized and I have been relentless about certain words that I think are very important. And I have seen just in my experience, the ripple effect of that, like I am so pro using the word Guardian instead of owner. And now like that has become a thing and I have worked very hard to that we call people guardians instead of owners. And that is such a more comfortable word for those of us who don’t view our pets as property. So guardian and like that’s a word that I think is so important that we say I have popularized I know the phrase like soulmate pet. I didn’t invent that for These are sold dog. I mean that that was before me but I talk about our animals being soulmates, right? So my cat Arnie, right? And even that gives such permission and validation for people to say, You know what, I feel that way about my dog, but I was always kind of afraid to say it right? So I think a lot of the things that we and you and I together and everyone who’s with us on this mission is to just use words that we think are supportive now, is the phrase Guardian supportive to everyone No, is the phrase soulmate supportive for everyone? No, but trying to bring in a broader range of ways to say things and things that might feel validating or supported. That’s why I always call animals Beloved’s you know, you all the time to read any of my posts like your beloved this your beloved that because to me, that’s a very appropriate word. It sounds better than pet to me. Sounds better than animal to me. Right? So, um, I think I think we all have the power to evolve the language. And I’ve said before, like when I’m one of my biggest pet peeves is the idea of the phrase pet loss, grief. I don’t like this phrase, even though I have to use it all the time in my work? Well, I’ll tell you what it is. I’ll tell you what, to me what it is. If we use the word widow, we don’t take on grief, widow grief, or child loss, that person has experienced child loss or is experiencing child loss. They’re not experiencing child loss, grief. They’re experiencing the death of a child. So why do we have to always tack on grief to pet loss? When we say a person is experiencing pet loss? Grief, it’s a thing. It’s everywhere you see it everywhere. It’s like we have to qualify that with the death of an animal. There is grief. That’s my pet peeve about it.

Angela   36:46 

Okay, interesting.

Beth  36:48 

Not that I love the word loss. By the way, I’m not I also don’t love the word loss. But that is in the lexicon about pet loss. And I don’t know what the what the upgrade for that is. I’m still working on some upgrades, upgrades to that. But pet loss is certainly the phrase and and there is a loss. I mean, I can appreciate the word from the standpoint of there is a loss. But of course, from my standpoint, is someone who has a continuing connection with their beloved, I have lost Arnie’s physical form. But I have not lost our relationship and I have not lost our connection and have not lost our collaboration. And it’s something that I continue to give to and receive from and we are more evolved, we are more connected. We are more close today than we were when he died many years ago. So for me, the word loss is even a little tricky, but I can accept the word loss but I hate tacking the grief on the end of it. What do you hate about the phrase pet loss grief? What does it do?

Angela   37:41 

It sounds clinical to me. It sounds like it’s something that should be in the DSM you know, and I just it’s it’s very much oh, this got into my head as you were talking it’s very much the same as talking about end of life pet photography sessions. Do I hate that? I hate it and because it just sounds so clinical and final and yet what I’m what I’m trying to do at my end of life pet photography sessions is celebrate a life is to create incredible memories that as we’ve talked about before with the continuing bonds theory will help bring us healing and comfort in the future in the absence of their physical being. So to say end of life, pet photography just sounds so final and so clinical and so horrible. I hate it, but at the same time, I have to use it to convey what I do. And to search engine optimize my website.

Beth  38:54 

Yeah, and I would say for now, that’s what you have to do. And we can dream of the time when maybe we have evolved it even more, we’ve come a long way you know, we have we have come a long way on this. In fact, you know, to that point, like when I when I was naming my private practice right? A lot of extra quote experts told me uh you need to put pet loss in your practice name you need to put pet loss in your Instagram name because if people type in pet loss they need to be able to find you. So you know a lot of people on Instagram want to put pet loss as like the first few words of their Instagram name because they want people to find them so they can make money off that right. I get it but I could not in good luncheons put the words pet loss in my business name or in my instagram handle. Because to me, this isn’t about loss. This is about honoring and that’s why my you know that’s why I’m called honoring our animals. And has it deemed me on Instagram definitely. Definitely fewer people find me because I don’t have to worry about loss and my handle and I’m 1,000% okay with that, because it is not authentic to what this is about. You know the the death the loss is As part of this experience, but the much longer experience, and the experience that came before, that last earthly day, is about the honoring, honoring of the relationship or outside honoring of the relationship now, and continuing that connection. And so that was that’s been a huge thing. And I’ve had people give me like negative feedback about that. Well, you know, you’d be been doing better if you have pet boss. Go ahead. I’d rather not be doing better than being and being authentic to my language. Yeah,

Angela   40:27 

Absolutely. And as someone who wants to speak appropriately, to someone who is enduring pet loss, not pet loss, grief, but pet loss. We’ve talked about this. In our first episode together, it’s about mirroring the language, right?

Beth  40:54 

Totally. What do you remember about that? Do you remember? I could tell you, but we do. ,

Angela   41:01 

Of course, I talked about it a lot, too now. And it’s about active listening to the person who is in grief, and then reflecting back on them the words that they use to describe their grief.

Beth  41:17 

1,000% That’s right. So it’s perfect. A plus, you know, so if someone says, like, you know, I really, I really miss my fur baby. You know, she, she was by baby and I loved her so much. And she was my little daughter, right? Then when you talk about that, that beloved, he used the word baby, use the word daughter, use the word for baby, those are comfortable words for that person. But if someone does not describe their beloved to you, as a first baby, please don’t say for baby, right. Same thing. You know, we talked about the afterlife. If someone’s talking about oh, I feel so good. Because you know, she’s at the Rainbow Bridge now and, and I’ll get to see her there someday, then feel free if it’s authentic to you to mirror back something about the Rainbow Bridge. But if they don’t bring up the Rainbow Bridge, they may not like the rainbow bridge and Rainbow Bridge and make them uncomfortable. The rainbow bridge may make them feel scared. So don’t bring it up. So my number one advice is really mirroring and listening. And if someone if you know you have a friend who makes a social media post, really read what they say read how they talk about it, read how they reference, their situation, their beloved, their grief, and try to use as many of those words as possible. Because, you know, we, you know, first of all comforting a Griever there’s not much you can do there. Frankly, not much you can say the best thing you can do is listen and hold space and just reflect back. This is so hard. I’m here for you. You know, I hear how painful this is. And I’m right here with you. I mean, that is the most kind of supportive type of thing you can say. But if you’re gonna go beyond that, please stick to mirroring it’s the number one thing we can do. It requires a little more effort on our part in our listening, but it will be so much more meaningful to them than for you to impose any of your sort of language around it because let’s be honest, none of us have great language around any of this.

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