Grieving for a loved pet is a natural, normal and personal process. The manner and intensity of reactions to this loss will be different for each person. Reactions will depend on the circumstances surrounding the death, depth of attachment to the pet, personal experiences with grief and state of mind when death occurs.
There are many ways to grieve for a pet as there are pet owners. However, there are a few universal feelings that most of us experience during the grieving process:
- Shock and denial
- Anger and guilt
- Sorrow and depression
At DoveLewis we honor the human–animal bond and understand that in our society, each of us is expected to minimize our sorrow for our deceased pet. However, our feelings linger, long after the loss, because our pets shared our lives, our dreams, our homes and our affection. Because they touched our lives so deeply, they are deserving of our grief.
Recognizing the need for pet owners to talk, reminisce, and share stories about their lost pets, DoveLewis offers Portland’s only Pet Loss Support Group, free of charge. Each group is led by Enid Traisman, M.S.W., C.T, C.F.S., who believes that the bond between pets and people represent some of the most important relationships in a person’s life.
Pet Loss Support Schedule
DoveLewis offers four Pet Loss Support Groups every month. These groups last one hour and are a free community service. Drop-ins are welcome. Please bring a photo of your pet to share with the group.
Northwest Hospital - 1945 NW Pettygrove, Portland
*Please note our new schedule
1st Thursday 12:00PM
2nd Thursday 7:00PM
3rd Monday 7:00PM
3rd Thursday 10:00AM
Children and the Death of a Pet
Children also need special consideration when a beloved pet dies. Many times, this is their first experience with feelings of loss, grief and bereavement. When a child experiences the death of a beloved pet, he or she may encounter emotional reactions that can be painful and frightening. Helping children understand their feelings at this confusing time is crucial, since this first experience with death sets the tone for handling future losses.
Helping Children Work through Grief
First, find a quiet place where you can talk without interruption. Tell the child simply that their pet has died and what caused the death.
Answer all questions truthfully in words they can understand. Inconsistent or incomplete answers may leave the child more unsettled than the truth itself. Avoid euphemisms.
Avoid terms like “gone away,” “put to sleep,” “passed on,” and “lost.” Instead, simple and accurate terms such as dead and stopped breathing, establishes that the body is no longer alive biologically.
Share your beliefs, hopes and faiths about the soul or spirit of pets.
Encourage the expression of feelings.
Children will model their parents’ behaviors. Try drawing, writing and talking together about the pet. Children process thoughts and feelings by “doing.” Help guide your child and you will be giving him an important life tool—a model for how to say good–bye and a framework for dealing with death and other significant changes or losses in the future.
—Enid Traisman, MSW, Director of Pet Loss Support Services
|Enid Traisman, M.S.W.
Certified Grief Counselor
Pet Loss Support Program Director