Archive for January, 2010

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11:03 19 January 2010

Pet Loss Support Group Meetings

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What can you expect when you go to a Pet Loss Support Group meeting?

Everyone sits in a circle, all facing each other.  The leader or the group facilitator, usually starts by stating the group’s purpose and laying the “ground rules” –  ie the group begins and ends on time, all information shared by the group stays there, members are free to exchange phone numbers if they choose etc.

Going around the circle, members may choose to share as much or as little as they wish, or may choose to “pass”.  One person speaks at a time, and everyone gets an equal share of time – no one is allowed to monopolize the session.  Suggestions may be offered, but unsolicited advice is not given.  One by one people are invited to introduce themselves and to tell as much or as little about their pet as they wish.   Experiences, thoughts, feelings, are openly expressed, and painful as well as pleasant memories are recalled.  Often members are asked to pass around photographs of their pets.  Some members may choose to read Eulogies they have written to their pet, others choose to share personal tributes they have penned.  Many choose to share their Personalized Pet Memorials they have created to celebrate the life of their pet with others.  Whatever is read, whatever is shared is always held in the strictest confidence by everyone there.  When outside the group, members aren’t free to talk about another member without that member’s permission.  Whatever is shared by the group stays confidential within the group.  Many friendships are made and burdens lifted because they are shared.

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10:41 19 January 2010

Can a Pet Loss Support Group Help?

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When we  lose a beloved companion animal, we need to acknowledge our loss, express our grief and work through our pain.  Friends, family members and even co-workers may not fully understand our grief.  A Pet Loss Support Group may be the only place where we can feel safe to freely express our feelings, to those who are experiencing the same feelings of pain.  We need to talk about our loss, and this may outlast the willingness of those immediately around us to listen.  Often we have a Personalized Pet Memorial,  photos, and stories or tributes to our pet we need to share with someone.  So, a Pet Loss Support group may be the only place  we can go to be among others who undertand, and where we can still talk about the pets we have loved and lost.

Pet Loss Support Groups provide structure and make certain that everyone in the group feels safe to express their feelings, no matter how tender.  Many of us feel awkward or self-conscious about expressing our grief when an animal we love is terminally ill, has gone missing, or has died.  Some people aren’t even sure if they have the legitimate right to grieve the loss of their pets.  Our culture doesn’t help much with this kind of loss either.  There is no automatic time off from work, and there aren’t any formal, public or socially accepted rituals where sorrow can be shared and support obtained from others when it comes to our pets.  But studies show that the more support and understanding we get from others around us, the sooner we’ll come to terms with our loss and the better we’ll cope with our grief.

You can find a Pet Loss Support Group in the yellow pages or local newspaper.  You may also ask your veterinarian, a local radio or television station, a pet cemetery, a  Humane Society agent or even pet groomer if they know of any groups in your area.  Many organizations maintain directories of such organizations specializing in pet loss.  Once you have found a group, make sure it is made up of grievers with whom you can identify and is run by someone knowlegeable about the human-animal bond and the grieving process.

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10:03 19 January 2010

What is a Pet Loss Support Group?

24802714Losing a cherished companion animal is difficult enough, especially when your family, friends and co-workers may not be animal lovers and don’t understand the depth of your loss.  Many people don’t grasp the significance an animal can play in your life, and cannot accept the attachment you had to your pet.  Because of this common problem, Pet Loss Support Groups have been formed in which you may choose to take part to help you get through the grieving process.

A Pet Loss Support Group is often run by volunteers who have lost pets themselves.  They have learned to work through their own grief and are committed to helping others get through the experience too.  The group is organized to help members be able to bear the burden of losing a pet.  It provides a safe, structured place where healthy people can come and share similar experiences and work throught the grieving process together.  They meet on a regular basis to share stories of their pets, learn more about the grieving process, express and work through their feelings, and reflect with others on the meaning of it all.  Often photos are passed around, Pet Memorials shared, and poems, eulogies  or tributes read.  Some larger groups even have professionals who assist them, like bereavement counselors and veterinarians.  They can offer expertise, educational and medical information that may not be otherwise available. 

A Pet Loss Support Group is not a social gathering designed to introduce people to similar interests, nor is it a from of group therapy.  They are not meant to cure long-standing emotional problems, or alter personalities or change anyone’s basic values or beliefs.  It is a group of people who are experiencing the same feelings you are and are available to help you better cope with your grief and come to terms with your loss.  Whenever two or more people share the painful experience of coping with the loss of a cherished companion animal, there is a place for a Pet Loss Support Group.

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Smokey Proof

One bereavement counselor stated that a Pet Obituary is a fine example of one’s efforts to pay tribute to a cherished friend.  He also stated that is it so important for humans to memoralize our companion animals when we lose them and to acknowledge and honor the important role they have played in our lives.

Some newspapers will allow you to write and then will print an obituary for your beloved lost companion animal.  Writing an obituary can play a very important role in helping you get through the necessary steps of grieving so you can heal and get on with your life.    It allows you to put down in words your feelings you may not have expressed before about how much your pet meant to you.  You should include the memories you made together, and how much he/she will be missed in your life.

If your local newspaper won’t print an obituary for you, write one anyway and put it with your photos and mementos you have saved of your lost pet.  Make a scrapbook of pictures and poems, and put it where you can see if often.  Or, you may choose to have a personal tribute to your pet laser engraved on a Pet Memorial Stone you can put over your pet’s grave or display in your home.  Laser engraved tributes last for generations and are a beautiful addition to any room or display.

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5:22 14 January 2010

Should I Have a Pet Viewing?

Ivory Steel Casket

Having a Pet Viewing is a very personal decision on the part of the pet owner.  It can be a former part of a burial ceremony, or as simple as letting family members and other pets say good-bye before closing the Pet Casket.

Veterinarians are often asked if it is helpful to show the body of a deceased animal to the other family pets.  They ask this in a sincere effort to help “explain” the finality of what has occurred  let the surviving pets know why their buddy won’t be coming home.  A Veterinarian in  England granted a woman’s request to have her dog observe a companion dog’s body following euthanasia.  The woman believed her dog was better able to accept the loss of his companion when shown the body. 

Some scientists argue that animals don’t have self-awareness let alone the awareness of another animal’s mental or physical state.  But many pet owners will tell you otherwise.  When I had to have a horse put to sleep because of a broken leg, my Vet suggested I let the other horses come say “good-bye” after she was gone.  They all came to the trailer one by one and sniffed her.  After she was taken out of the pasture, they did not run and pace the fence like horses usually do when one is taken by trailer to a horse show or on a trail ride.  I think we need to give our pets the benefit of the doubt and let them view the body of a deceased companion if we feel it would help.  It could help bring them peace and some closure to the fact that their friend will never be coming back.

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12:28 13 January 2010

Will My Other Pet’s Know?

Durolon Casket

Many people wonder if when a beloved pet dies, how the other pets in the family will react.  Will they know their friend is gone?  Or should I show the body to them and let them say “good-bye”?  Veterinarians are often asked this very question, and there seems to be quite a debate over the subject – although there is little evidence to support either view.  Some argue that pet’s don’t have the cognitive ability to understand the finality of death, but others believe that pets can see death as we do.

Many people have had experiences with surviving pets that have reported that they grieve the loss of deceased companion animals.  Author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, in her book “The Hidden Life of Dogs” described how a dog howled for the first time when it somehow sensed that its buddy was not returning home after a final trip to the Vet.
It is possible that the dog may not have been so upset if it had accompanied his buddy to the Vet  and witnessed for himself the final event.   Also, in the book “Dog’s Behaving Badly” the author describes how a dog was put to sleep and the owners tried to conceal it from the other family dog.  Upon returning home, the remaining dog frantically combed every inch of the house looking for his companion until he finally found him in the garden in a well-camouflaged grave.  There he sat for days, staring off into space with a far away look.  It was as if he knew what had happened, and he probably did.

Horse and donkey mares do better if they are allowed to spend time with the deceased foal, than if it is hurried away withour their inspection.  If unable to inspect the dead foal, frantic equine moms have even dug up the foal’s remains to seemingly reflect for awhile before coming to terms with their loss.

For a pet who is closes bonded with another, displaying the deceased’s body may help the survivor to accept the finality of the event and to bring closure to them.  They may also display classic stages of grieving,  just like humans.   Don’t be alarmed if they become less active, eat less, sleep fitfully and generally appear depressed.  They too are trying to come to terms with with has transpired.
It may help to bury their companion nearby, in a favorite spot in the backyard where they can visit often.  Burying your pet in a Pet Casket it is a beautiful and dignified way to intern your beloved companion animal.

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11:42 13 January 2010

Pet Loss and Children III

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The best way to help a child overcome a loss of a beloved pet is to talk to them about it.  Before a death, when the animal is sick or very old, spend time talking with your child about his/her feelings.  Tell them what will happen when the pet dies.  Be honest, open and frank with them.  Don’t try to hide anything in trying to protect them from reality, it will just prolong the pain.  If possible, let your child say “good-bye” to the 4-legged family member before the pet dies.  Let your child know that it is very normal to grieve, to feel sad and to miss the family pet.  Help them to clearly understand that death is a part of life, and it is not their fault the pet will die.

The death of a pet may bring back the memory of other painful losses or upsetting events.  A child who may seem to be overwhelmed with grief and one who is not about to function in their daily routines may benefit from talking with a professional adolescent psychiatrist or other qualified mental health advisor.

You may choose to have the child help you place the pet in a Pet Casket, and then help you bury it in your backyard in or in a pet cemetery.  This will allow them to see their beloved friend properly put to rest.  It may also help them to gain some closure knowing the pet is resting in peace.   They won’t need to wonder where the pet went after he/she died, and may help them not to wonder if the pet will be coming back.

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12:22 12 January 2010

Pet Loss and Children II

dreamstime_1324598Telling a child that they have just lost their best friend, their pet, can be one of the hardest things we will ever have to do as parents.  Children will often have questions after their pet dies like: Why did my pet die?  Where does my pet go now?  Will I ever see my pet again? If I wish really hard will my pet come back?  Was it my fault?  Does death last forever?  If I am really good can I get him/her back?    It is very important to answer each question simply and honestly.

Children may experience anger, sadness, fear, denial, or guilt when their pet dies.  They may also be jealous of their friend who still have a living pet.  Parents can serve as models by openly sharing their feelings with their children about death.  Let your children know that it is a normal part of life and it’s okay to feel sad and miss the pet.  Encourage your youngsters to come to you with question and for reassurance and comfort.

Remember there is no “best” way for a child to mourn.  Mourning a pet has to be done in the child’s own way. They need to be given time to remember their pets.  It helps to talk about the pet with family members and friends.  When the pet dies, let the children help you bury it , make a memorial, and even have a ceremony.  Let the children be involved in creating  a Pet Memorial  Headstone for your lost family member to put  over the grave in the backyard or in a pet cemetery.  It will help them feel more connected to the life of the pet, and will bring back fond memories each time they look at it.  It can also help them get through the grieving process and and help them find some closure.

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11:57 12 January 2010

Pet Loss and Children I

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For many children, their first real experience with loss occures when their their beloved pet dies.  When this happens, children need love, consolation, support and affection.   They don’t need complicated medical or scientific explanations. 

Children’s reaction to death will depend on their age and maturity levels.  Children 3-5 years view death as temporary and potentially reversible.  Ages 6-8 children have begun to develop a more realistic understanding of the nature and consequences of death.  But it is generally not until children reach 9 that they fully understand that death is permanent and final.  For this reason very young children should be told when a pet  dies that it stops moving, that it doesn’t see or hear anymore, and it won’t wake up again.  They may need to have this repeated several times before they understand.

There are many ways parents can explain the death of a pet to a child.  It is helpful to make the child as comfortable as possible first, and then use a soothing voice, and tell them in a familiar setting.  It is also very important to be honest, using vague or inaccurate information can creat anxiety, confusion and mistrust.

One simple way to help a child say “good-bye” to their lost friend is to create tribute to the pet from each of the family members.  You may have small children draw pictures of the good times they had together.  Older children can write down phrases  of what the pet meant to them.  Adults and write down a farewell tribute,  a poem about the memories they cherish, or even an Ode to the family pet.  Compile all of these tributes in a scrapbook along with photographs you have of your pet and your children.  Set up a special place for the  “memorials” you have created where you can see them often.  You may also want to have a Pet Memorial etched onto marble or granite to display on your fireplace mantle or family room end table.  It will bring you a lifetime of memories that you and your children will enjoy together.

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11:43 12 January 2010

A Horrible Loss

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Dealing with the death of a pet is never easy. Each year, millions of families around the world struggle to cope with the loss of a pet. All too often pets’ lives are instantly snuffed out by unsafe drivers and accidents — and owners are left to pick up the pieces. Picking up the pieces isn’t always easy, especially when your dealing with intense grief and sadness.

There is one way, however, to know that your pet will always be with you. A pet urn is a great way to make sure your beloved animal is a part of your home forever. Pick a pet urn that matches with the decorating motif in your home an store it on the mantle. Every time you walk by the urn you will remember your dearly departed pet.