Animal-Related Grief - Part Two
By Nadja Lubiw-Hazard, DVM
Part Two of a four-part series on Animal-Related Grief
If you are struggling with grief after the loss of a companion animal, please remember you are not alone. Many other animal guardians suffer with the same emotions that you are experiencing. Some of these feelings can be overwhelming, including shame, guilt, anger and anguish. If you are not able to cope, or are experiencing mental health difficulties, it’s time to reach out for help. Each person grieves in their own way; likewise, each person heals in their own way. Here are some starting points to consider if you are looking for resources to help you navigate this difficult time.
Pet Loss Support Groups
If you need a safe and welcoming place to share your grief, a Pet Loss Support Group is a great place to start. One of the benefits is connecting with others who understand your grief and pain. Another advantage is these groups are free. If you are in the GTA, here are a couple of local options:
Ontario Pet Loss Support Group www.ontariopetloss.org
The Robbie Dean Counselling Centre & OSPCA Pet Loss Support Group www.robbiedeancentre.com
The Growth & Wellness Therapy Centre Pet Loss & Bereavement Group www.growthwellnesstherapy.com/pet-loss-group
Pet Loss Counsellors
If you think it would be valuable to have one-to-one support, consider the option of a therapist/counsellor who specializes in pet loss. Although you need to pay for this service, the expert support and advice makes it a worthwhile option. Finding a good fit with a therapist is important. Here are a few names to begin your search:
Helen Goldberg www.petlosscounselling.net
Bojena Kelmendi www.vivelavitatherapies.ca
Pet Loss Guides
For many people, an important part of the healing process involves learning more about the experience of losing a companion animal. A great place to start is with OVC (Ontario Veterinary College) Pet Trust’s Pet Loss Support Guides. These guides are packed with practical information, and are available from you veterinarian, or as a free download. https://pettrust.uoguelph.ca/petlossresources
They provide the following guides:
Coping with the Loss of a Pet: A Support Guide for Pet Owners
Preparing for the Loss of a Pet: A Support Guide for Pet Owners
Helping Children with the Loss of a Pet: A Support Guide for Pet Owners
Pet Loss Books
There are a multitude of books available on the topic of pet loss. Some of these books provide emotional comfort, others provide more practical or theoretical information. A great place to start is with a search for books on pet loss, either through your local library, or through a search engine.
For example, here is a list provided by the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine:
The Book of Pet Love and Loss
Two recently published books that are highly recommended are The Book of Pet Love & Loss by Sara Bader and The Pet Loss Guide by Millie Jacobs. If you are supporting a child who has experienced the loss of a companion animal, there are many wonderful picture books that can help them understand and cope with the loss. One particular book that stands out is The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst.
Distress Lines. Should you ever find yourself in crisis, and need someone to talk to, reach out. CAMH (The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health) has a list of helplines: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/crisis-resources. Most of these services are available 24/7.
As you learn to live with your grief, there can be great comfort in knowing that others are on the same journey as you. Whether through a support group or a book, try to find a way to connect with others. You are not alone.
Nadja Lubiw-Hazard, DVM
A note from Nicola:
RIP Colin Smith
We started posting these blogs with the intention of posting monthly. There was an interruption in that timeline because I unexpectedly lost my brother. It's interesting that I started these posts with Nadja and then went through a huge loss of my own. I am no stranger to grief. Although my loss was not of my pet at this time, I am once again reminded that grief serves as a poignant reminder of the profound importance of kindness, both towards ourselves and others. In the depths of sorrow, we often find ourselves grappling with complex emotions, navigating a sea of pain and loss. It is during these moments of vulnerability that we learn to extend compassion not only to our grieving hearts but also to those around us. Grief teaches us that we never truly know the burdens others carry or the battles they fight in silence. It underscores the significance of empathy, encouraging us to be gentle with ourselves as we mourn, while also prompting us to reach out with understanding and support to those whose hidden struggles remain concealed beneath a brave facade. In a world where everyone faces their own unique challenges, grief reminds us of our shared humanity and the necessity of kindness as a guiding light in the darkness of loss and despair.
May those we have loved and lost rest in peace.
Owner We Wag Toronto, Professional Dog Walkers