The Grief After Goodbye

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The loss of a companion animal is devastating. We share with them that most wondrous thing; unconditional love. And the absence of it – and them - makes us ache.

That loss is also complicated. People have varying degrees of expressing grief for humans as well as animals, and in the case of the latter, some people don’t have much patience for what – in their opinion – is excessive grieving. If you have suffered the loss of a companion animal, especially recently, and feel self-conscious about what you feel is your inability to pull yourself together, the first thing you have to do is be kind to yourself.  

“You want to take care of yourself and get support from those who love you, understand, and respect your loss. Grief is a messy process, but it’s normal,” stated Ken Dolan-Del Vecchio, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Dolan-Del Vecchio is co-author of The Pet Loss Companion: Healing Advice from Family Therapists Who Lead Pet Loss Groups.

Ken notes the importance of the basics of self-care during these times.  They are:

  • Enough sleep or rest
  • Eating well
  • Following our usual wellness routines (stretching, meditating, exercising)

According to Ken, grief interferes with the way we experience ourselves and the world. We may experience headaches, stomach aches, or appetite changes, which is normal. We should keep reassuring ourselves rather than become self-critical by thinking that ‘we should be stronger than this.’  “Support from other people is key,” he counseled.

Dakin is offering people the opportunity to be part of our Pet Loss & Healing Support Group, which will be led by Ken Dolan Del-Vecchio.  The group will meet monthly beginning Tuesday, April 12 at 6:00 p.m. at 171 Union Street in Springfield.  While there’s no cost to attend, participants must register online in advance, and seating is limited.  Dakin reserves the right to switch this event to an online format if we are unable to host it in person, and we appreciate the support of our event sponsor Gwen D. Gannon Inc., Home of the Center for Addiction Recovery. Click here to register now.

For those who may prefer to grieve privately, there are several videos featuring Dolan-Del Vecchio that cover the grief process, from knowing when it’s time to end your pet’s suffering, to feeling ready to adopt again, here on Dakin’s website.

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