Below are a number of resources to help you cope if you are grieving the loss of a pet.
HOTLINES AND SUPPORT GROUPS FOR COPING WITH GRIEF OVER THE DEATH OF A DOG, CAT OR OTHER PET
Grief Healing: This website lists a number of helplines.
The Pet Loss Support Page: Lists hotlines and contains many other resources.
Veterinary Medical Center at Michigan State University, 517-353-5420.
The pet loss support group, run by Veterinary Social Work Services at MSU’s Veterinary Medical Center, offers a safe place for individuals and families to express their feelings. Meetings are held the second and fourth Thursdays of every month at 6:30 p.m. in the Veterinary Medical Center. There is no charge for this service.
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 509-335-5704, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hotline volunteers are a group of WSU College of Veterinary Medicine students who have received limited training in grief counseling by licensed therapists. During the semester, phones are normally staffed Monday through Thursday, 7–9 p.m., and Saturday, 1–3 p.m. PST. There’s abbreviated coverage when school is not in session and during holidays.
PET LOSS AND GRIEF WEBSITES AND WEBPAGES
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement is a nonprofit association of concerned volunteers who are knowledgeable about the tender subject of pet death and dedicated to helping people during this very special kind of bereavement. The website contains an extensive list of resources related to pet loss.
The Companion Animal Association of Arizona has a Pet Grief Support Service that provides pet-loss resources. The association is operated entirely by volunteers who themselves have suffered the loss of a pet.
The Argus Institute, at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University, honors the human-animal bond by providing compassionate support and advocacy for people who care about animals. The webpage contains links to pet loss resources, including recommended reading for both adults and children.
RECOMMENDED ONLINE ARTICLES FOR ANIMAL LOSS SUPPORT
On the Pet Loss Support Page can be found various articles by Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed., including “Ten Tips on Coping with Pet Loss.”
Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has an informative article called “Supporting People Who Are Grieving.”
RECOMMENDED BOOKS TO COPE WITH LOSING A PET
Goodbye, Friend by Gary Kowlaski
Kowalski’s book is full of sound, compassionate advice to get through the loss of a pet. Included are ideas for rituals and ceremonies, spiritual guidance and readings for solace. Kowalski includes advice on how to take care of yourself after the death of a pet and the importance of honesty when talking with children about this event.
Saying Goodbye to the Pet You Love by Lorri A. Greene, Ph.D.
Written by a psychologist who is a leader in the field of pet bereavement, this practical but sympathetic guide validates the survivor’s often misunderstood feelings, explains the importance of the human-animal bond, and offers strategies for working through the grieving process. Topics include memorializing the pet, recognizing problematic thinking, finding support, dealing with guilt and explaining the pet’s death to a child. The special needs of the guardians of working animals are addressed, as are self-help resources for the elderly.
Grieving the Death of a Pet by Betty Carmack
Written by a nurse and professional pet-loss counselor, this book draws from her experience of counseling people who have lost a beloved pet, as well as the loss of her own furry friends. Carmack offers pet-loss support to counter “a world that reminds us repeatedly that grief for an animal doesn’t count as much as grief for a person.” The book is poignant and sometimes heartrending, filled with personal stories of love and loss.
Pet Loss: A Spiritual Guide by Julia Harris
This book helps readers to understand the many emotional reactions to the loss of a pet; assist children in coping with and recovering from their loss; and learn how different spiritual belief systems recognize and counsel pet loss. Practical topics include what hap-pens at a pet cemetery burial, cremation or home burial; what legal arrangements are available; how to develop a ceremony to honor the pet; and how to cope with the trauma of a terminally ill or runaway pet.
Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates by Gary Kurz
This book can help you cope with the loss of a pet and tries to answer questions about pet afterlife.
When Only the Love Remains by Emily Margaret Stuparyk
This book is a collection of poignant poems.
Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss by David Congalton
The author talks about how he transformed his anguish over the loss of several pets into a commitment to abused and abandoned animals. This down-to-earth book offers solace and practical suggestions for coping with grief. Anyone who has an animal companion will find this story inspirational and hopeful.
PS. I Love You More Than Tuna by Sarah Chauncey, illustrated by Francis Tremblay
When a beloved feline dies, many cat lovers are not prepared for the profound sadness accompanying the loss. Our grief is often minimized by a society that has a long way to go until it can recognize the depth of grief we carry in our hearts for our departed cats. The author and illustrator of this book, however, do understand. Both cat lovers, Chauncey and Tremblay have created a gift book for adults trying to cope with losing a feline soulmate. Their belief that the love between a cat and her person is eternal is comforting and will be a source of solace for readers.
For children and teenagers:
Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
These books will appeal to children from preschool to grade two. The simple, colorful illustrations take the child on a journey to Dog Heaven or Cat Heaven, places of warmth and happiness. In Dog Heaven, there are “fields and fields and fields,” and in Cat Heaven, there are thousands of toys and soft angel laps in which to cuddle up. God is depicted as a kindly older man who benevolently watches over his charges.
Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert
This book tells the story of an old woman named Grandy who is making “tear soup.” It’s not specifically about the death of a pet (the reader is not sure what loss Grandy has suffered) so the book is relevant for any grieving process. The full-color illustrations are wonderful. The book is recommended for ages four to eight, but it has been a comfort to people of all ages.
For Every Dog an Angel and For Every Cat an Angel by Christine Davis
These small short books, which tell the story of the Rainbow Bridge, are beautifully illustrated in whimsical watercolors. They are appropriate for a wide range of ages.
Pet Loss and Human Emotion: Guiding Clients Through Grief by Cheri Barton Ross and Jane Baron-Sorensen
This unique guide, written for mental health professionals, serves as a practical introduction to the field of human-animal bonding. The authors feel strongly that pet loss needs to be understood by therapists and others in the helping professions, to better enable them to help clients through this type of grief. Citing several case studies, the book describes various techniques for helping clients cope with the loss of a pet. There are chapters on working with children and the elderly.
The Rainbow Bridge poem for pet loss
The Rainbow Bridge poem offers peace and comfort to those who just lost a beloved best friend. There are many versions and variations of this poem, and the original author of “Rainbow Bridge” is unknown.
There is a bridge connecting Heaven and Earth.
It is called the Rainbow Bridge because of all its beautiful colors.
Just this side of the Rainbow Bridge there is a land of meadows,
hills and valleys with lush green grass.
When a beloved pet dies, the pet goes to this place,
there is always food and water and warm spring weather.
The old and frail animals are young again.
Those who were sick, hurt or in pain are made whole again.
There is only one thing missing.
They are not with their special person who loved them so much on earth.
So each day they run and play until the day comes
when one suddenly stops playing and looks up!
The nose twitches! The ears are up!
The eyes are staring and this one runs from the group!
You have been seen and when you and your special friend meet,
you take him in your arms and hug him.
He licks and kisses your face again and again,
and you look once more into the eyes of your best friend and trusting pet.
Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together, never again to be apart.