Pet Grief Support Tools
For pet owners, the feelings that come with the loss of a pet may be intense, conflicting, confusing, and more. These feelings, however, are a normal part of the grieving process. They allow us to deal with our grieving for pet loss and accept the natural passage from life to death.
Grief Support Tools & Pet Loss Hotlines:
- ASPCA National Pet Loss
24 hours / day
Professional Organizations that Address Pet Loss Issues
- Argus Institute
Colorado State University
James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital
300 West Drake, Fort Collins, Co 80523
T: 1-970-297-4142 | Email Argus Institute
The Argus Institute provides free grief counseling relating to pet loss and support to those making end-of-life decisions for their pets. Founded in 1984, their unique program is one of the longest standing, most comprehensive programs of its kind. Their clinical counselors offer support to people who are facing difficult decisions regarding their pets’ health and help them manage the challenges of caring for a sick animal.
- Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB)
National organization providing training and “certification” for pet loss support counselors. The Association’s website offers information, counselor referrals, and online forums/support for pet owners.
- Center for Loss and Life Transition
Directed by bereavement expert Dr. Alan Wolfelt, the center offers:
- -Books about pet loss. “When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing” written by Dr. Alan Wolfelt
- -Pet Loss Companioning Certification Program
- American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA)
Written Guidelines for Pet Loss Support Services and Veterinary Hospice Programs Brochures about Pet and Equine Euthanasia
- International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC)
The IAAHPC promotes comfort care that addresses the physical, psychological, and social needs of animals with chronic and/or life-limiting diseases. They promote physical, emotional, and spiritual support for caregivers. They also educate professionals and advance research in the field of animal hospice and palliative care.
In years past, the impact that pet loss can have on a person may not have been fully recognized. Support centered on human loss was much more extensive than the support available for the loss of a pet. This was true even though pet owners often feel just as strongly about the death of a beloved pet as they might about the loss of a family member or friend.
Today, however, there is a greater awareness that the loss of a pet also calls for the support and sympathy of those around us to help us cope. Family members, friends, the veterinary team, funeral homes, and even other pets can all play a role in helping us work through our sorrow. In addition to love and sympathy, this support often requires patience and understanding on the part of those around us.
While grieving for pet loss is a very personal experience, and also a unique one, you need not face this alone. There are many forms of support available such as pet bereavement counseling services, pet loss support hot lines, local or online support groups, and videos that help you to cope with pet loss.
Comforting Poetry & Prose
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together...
What Is Dying?
What is dying? I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails and spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon,and someone at my side says, "She is gone".
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her. and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her,and just at the moment when someone at my side say, "She is gone." there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout, "There she comes," and that is dying. .
--Henry Scott Holland
I Will Let You Go
We lie on your bed,you're in quiet rest
The medication makes you sleepy
But I think it is best.
Doctor's words, my broken heart
I cannot imagine
Us being apart
I cuddle up beside you, so I can be near
And whisper the words I love you
As I kiss your sweet ear.
Desperate for those moments, I didn't let it show
That I've loved you every second
Hoping that you know
I look into, your dark brown eyes, I know the end is near
I try to cloak my sadness
I blink away my tear.
I don't want you to leave me, I don't feel ready yet
But I want your peace and freedom
From all this pain and fret
I can't believe it's time, how I love you so
I don't know how I'll manage
But, I will let you go
A Living Love
lf you ever love an animal, there are three days in your life you will always remember... The first is a day, blessed with happiness, when you bring home your young new friend. You may have spent weeks deciding on a breed. You may have asked numerous opinions of many vets, or done long research in finding a breeder. Or, perhaps in a fleeting moment, you may have just chosen that silly looking mutt in a shelter—simply because something in its eyes reached your heart. But when you bring that chosen pet home, and watch it explore, and claim its special place in your hall or front room—and when you feel it brush against you for the first time—it instills a feeling of pure love you will carry with you through the many years to come.
The second day will occur eight or nine or ten years later. lt will be a day like any other. Routine and unexceptional. But, for a surprising instant, you will look at your longtime friend and see age where you once saw youth. You will see slow deliberate steps where you once saw energy. And you will see sleep when you once saw activity. So you will begin to adjust your friend's diet—and you may add a pill or two to her food. And you may feel a growing fear deep within yourself, which bodes of a coming emptiness. And you will feel this uneasy feeling, on and off, until the third day finally arrives. And on this day—if your friend and God have not decided for you, then you will be faced with making a decision of your own—on behalf of your lifelong friend, and with the guidance of your own deepest Spirit. But whichever way your friend eventually leaves you—you will feel as alone as a single star in the dark night.
lf you are wise, you will let the tears flow as freely and as often as they must. And if you are typical, you will find that not many in your circle of family or friends will be able to understand your grief, or comfort you. But if you are true to the love of the pet you cherished through the many joy-filled years, you may find that a soul—a bit smaller in size than your own—seems to walk with you, at times, during the lonely days to come. And at moments when you least expect anything out of the ordinary to happen, you may feel something brush against your leg—very very lightly.
And looking down at the place where your dear, perhaps dearest, friend used to lay—you will remember those three significant days. The memory will most likely to be painful, and leave an ache in your heart—As time passes the ache will come and go as if it has a life of its own. You will both reject it and embrace it, and it may confuse you. lf you reject it, it will depress you. If you embrace it, it will deepen you. Either way, it will still be an ache.
But there will be, l assure you, a fourth day when—along with the memory of your pet— and piercing through the heaviness in your heart—there will come a realization that belongs only to you. lt will be as unique and strong as our relationship with each animal we have loved, and lost. This realization takes the form of a Living Love—like the heavenly scent of a rose that remains after the petals have wilted, this Love will remain and grow—and be there for us to remember. lt is a love we have earned. lt is the legacy our pets leave us when they go. And it is a gift we may keep with us as long as we live. lt is a Love which is ours alone. And until we ourselves leave, perhaps to join our Beloved Pets—it is a Love we will always possess.