Sixth in a series of “pet loss and grief told from personal experience”
If you’ve lost your pet, if the loss is imminent or if your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal condition or you know someone in that position, don’t feel you are alone or that no one cares. As our relationships with our companion animals have become more widely accepted as valid, loving, reciprocal relationships, grieving the loss of your pet has become more widely accepted and even encouraged.
This is not an exhaustive list of possibilities—because there are so many other lists of pet loss information I’ve provided links to main sites and other lists, and focused on the theme of first-person pet loss and and how that loss changed lives and turned into a creative effort.
For as much as is available on the internet today, there’s nothing like communicating in person. Sometimes a regular meeting with a local support group can be the most welcome respite from your grief, especially if you begin before you lose your pet because you can learn from the group’s members what to expect, and they’ll understand how you feel when your pet’s time comes. Find a group with whom you can share your fears and feelings, talk about your pets and plan and attend ceremonies.
You’ll find your local animal shelters often offer pet loss support groups as one of their services. Pet-related businesses also sometimes offer support groups or host events honoring our companion animals as do many religious organizations.
Internet Discussion Groups
Moving to the internet, you can find discussion groups for pet loss in general, and discussion groups for every possible condition your pet could have, often species and even breed-specific. These groups are usually moderated by one or a group of persons and send out a digest of entries each day, and are ideal if your pet is ill or has been diagnosed with a disease because you can share your experiences and information with others dealing with the same condition. The ASPCA has a number of discussion groups including one for pet memorials. You can also check Yahoo groups and Google groups for information.
Websites and hotlines
Websites offering information and encouragement around pet loss are so numerous that it would be impossible to list them all. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, or APLB, has long been a central site for information and counseling about all aspects of pet loss as well as offering a place to create a memorial to your pet. They also offer book suggestions, information on pet cemeteries, urns, memorial products and local pet loss ceremonies.
Many veterinary schools and organizations offer pet loss hotlines and online chats, moderated by veterinarians, veterinary students or professional counselors which you can call for counseling and information. The University of California at Davis has a list of the main hotlines as well as posted on their Pet Loss page. In addition to these, The Grief Support Center at RainbowsBridge.com has a list of schools, organizations and individuals in the US and other English-speaking countries who offer pet loss counseling in person or via hotline, including all species and interests. You’ll find many other sites that list pet loss hot lines and counseling. This is a very personalized thing, so look around until you find one that you are most comfortable with.
And a friend of mine—the very one who taught me the first few strokes of HTML, in fact— put together a site for an animal shelter more than a decade ago which included a very comprehensive page of pet loss information available at that time. She accessed this through the “Way Back Machine”, and a few of the sites listed are no longer available or don’t compose well, but most are fine and still useful.
To begin with a few featured earlier in these articles, Karen Litzinger’s Heal Your Heart: Coping With the Loss of a Pet is neither a story nor simply advice on dealing with the loss of your pet, it’s valuable guided counseling for you to use as you need to. Karen is a licensed grief counselor and wrote the CD from her experience as a counselor. You can listen to the affirmations or use the guided meditation as often as you need to without listening to the whole thing or reading the entire book. Karen’s website tells more about the CD and has valuable articles on coping with pet loss and links to pet loss resources.
In Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher, Ingrid King tells the story of Buckley, who changed her life even as she was diagnosed and died from heart disease. As part of the story Ingrid tells of Buckley’s treatments and explains the effects of the heart disease the Buckley battled, as well as Ingrid’s own efforts to deal with Buckley’s loss. Different from a book on pet loss in general, hearing the story of one person’s experience in the first person can often be helpful and comforting. My post about Ingrid’s book describes how Buckley’s loss became the catalyst for Ingrid to finally find her career as an author, turning her grief into a creative effort. Ingrid’s websites also includes articles on coping with pet loss and links to other resources, including non-traditional treatments for grief and healing such as reiki, for Ingrid is a Reiki Master Practitioner as well as an author.
Author Christine Davis left a successful management career to write and illustrate two books after losing her companion dog, Martha. For Every Cat an Angel and For Every Dog an Angel are especially comforting for adults to read and enjoy the illustrations, and just as comforting for children; on its surface, the sentiment is simple but reaches deep, each page is beautiful, including a positive wish or thought for our animal companion. Christine has also written two other books and founded Lighthearted Press publishing her books and note cards, and her website includes a list of articles helpful about pet loss and a link to her blog.
I have “met” author Sid Korpi as I was composing this series of articles; she found them and commented on several. I visited her site and read about her book, Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss. After surviving what she calls a “tsunami of loss” of animal and human companions, and finding that the bond with a pet is sometimes not respected at all, she set about collecting stories of loss to let others who have lost an animal know they are not alone. Her website and blog include excerpts and reviews as well as valuable pet loss information.
And three often mentioned or referenced are:
Next in this series: Pet Love and Pet Loss, and How it Gave Me My Art: my own experience turning multiple losses loss into multiple creative endeavors
Pet loss and grief told from personal experience
When I was losing a pet and making decisions, and after I had lost a pet and was dealing with grief, I was most comforted by hearing stories from others about their experiences. Sitting with one of my cats in the middle of the night, trying to determine if they were suffering in any way, if they were ready to let go, struggling to make the decision about euthanasia and what to do after they died, I felt so alone and only hearing what others had experienced and what they had decided helped me put my own situation and decisions into perspective, and let me know that I was not the only person to experience the anguish I was suffering. I’ve composed this series of articles in the hopes that others find comfort in my experiences and those of the others mentioned here, and that information included about services and products may help them in their decisions.
Read the other articles in this series:
To love that well, which thou must leave ‘ere long: my first and worst lesson in pet loss
Starting with pet loss—before the loss: begin preparing yourself for loss by being proactive about care and providing palliative care yourself at home
Options for “After Care”, featuring Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation: aftercare, and a profile of a business and a person I find exceptional, and exceptionally comforting
Heal Your Heart After Pet Loss, a Remarkable CD and Guidebook: your grieving process, and a very special CD and guidebook for those times when you need a comforting voice
Turning Loss into Creativity with Ingrid King and Buckley’s Story: how grief can become the catalyst for change, turning grief into a creative effort
Pet Loss Support Information: ideas and resources for where to find comfort and support in your loss, including books about and inspired by the author’s personal experience
Pet Love and Pet Loss, and How it Gave Me My Art: my own experience turning multiple losses loss into multiple creative endeavors
About the images used in this post
With the exception of the cover images of the books, all of the images used here are of my cats, my inspirations and muses. I sell prints and notecards of all of them. It’s one of the things that helps me with losing them, to know that their image goes out in the world and they are thereby, in a way, immortal. To see the art visit my website and look under “Fine Art and Portraiture” for the gallery, “My Cats“. Also look under “Photography” for the five galleries of “My Cats“. You can browse prints and notecards in my “Marketplace“.