Guiding the Way Through Loss

Dakin believes strongly in helping to keep people and pets together through its programs and services. Sadly, that’s no longer possible when a pet passes away.

Losing a pet is a devastating experience. Your loyal friend who provided unconditional love is missing from your home and now lives in your heart. For some, the grief seems never-ending and impossible to navigate. Some experience fear of being judged by others for their grief struggles.

Last year Dakin created its Pet Loss Healing & Support Group, a free online monthly gathering of those mourning the death of - or separation from - a cherished pet, to offer support and guidance. Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, a family therapist and co-author of “The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice from Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups,” leads the support group. Ken chose to partner with us because of his passion for animals, and his desire to help people process their grief from losing their companions.

According to Ken, “Grief is a messy process. It’s also a normal process. Whenever we have a significant loss, whether it’s a beloved pet or person, an important relationship, or a job, we are likely to go through grief, which is a reaction to a stressor in our lives.”

The Pet Loss Healing & Support Group is made possible by sponsor Gwen D. Gannon, Inc. Gwen recognized the importance of having a safe space for people who lost an animal through death or separation to gather, express, and work through their feelings. Her generosity makes the free meetings available to those in need of guidance from a skilled therapist.

As she explains, “When my children launched into adulthood and left home, [my dog] KK supported my process of letting go and taught me to be brave even when I felt fearful.” Choosing to become the corporate sponsor for the support group was “a natural fit for [our team] as we all had adopted, rescued, and loved pets of our own.” Additionally, “we had all experienced the loss of a family pet.”

After a few in-person sessions at Dakin, the group switched to an online format, which now allows participants the comfort and convenience of being in their own homes as they listen to Ken share his knowledge about how to handle grief – and sometimes offer their own experiences - during the 90-minute sessions.

What happened next was a big surprise. Some online participants were from towns in the Pioneer Valley, but others were joining from eastern Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Texas, California, Arizona, South Carolina…and even Australia.

Now each month people from around the country, and sometimes outside of it, join together to listen as participants share the meaningful role that pets play in our lives. The Pet Loss & Healing Support Group offers everyone the opportunity for rebuilding that comes from sharing the journey.

If you are struggling with grief from losing a beloved pet, you are welcome to join an upcoming session. The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month on Zoom from 6-7:30 pm EST. You must RSVP online in advance. The next session is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11 at 6 pm.


This support group addresses pet loss, grief, and healing. However, this group should not be considered psychotherapy.

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