Credits: Virginia State Parks on flickr

By MARIA SIKOUTRIS DI IORIO

Animals provide companionship, acceptance, emotional support and unconditional love.  If you understand this connection between human and animal, then you understand that coping with loss and grief of a pet is no different than when a person you love dies.  It’s natural for family and friends to express sorrow for your loss for a human, unfortunately, many people do not understand how important animals can be in people’s lives.  Many people may not even understand why you are grieving over the loss of your pet.

People consider their pet as part of the family.  They oftentimes will celebrate their pets’ birthdays, take pictures with them and include them in family activities.

The grieving process is as individual as the person, and can last for days and yet for another for years.  The grieving process is very much the same as when losing a close family member or loved one.  The Kubler-Ross model, otherwise known as the five stages of grief include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  They are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling.  You can experience all five stages and then begin the process from the beginning again.  There is no timetable.

The loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience with death.  The child may blame themselves, their parents, or the veterinarian for not saving the pet.  Children may have feelings of depression, sadness and fear that other people they love may also be taken away from them.  Trying to protect your child by saying their pet ran away can cause feeling of betrayal once they learn the truth.  Expressing your own grief and allowing your child to grieve is a healthy way to approach the loss and the sadness.  It is healthy to be able to talk about your pet and reminisce about all the happy times instead of avoiding the topic. Encourage your child to talk about your pet. You can prepare a memorial for your pet and have your child write a letter to their pet… it can be a cathartic experience for them.

Many people ask the question of whether they should replace their pet immediately.  Rushing into this decision does not allow your child or other family members to experience the loss and sadness which is part of life.  You will know when the right time is to adopt a new pet after giving yourself time to grieve.

Owning a pet provides many wonderful experiences including companionship, support and love. Pets have their own personalities and we grow to love them deeply. Do not allow others to minimize your loss when they say “it was just a pet”.  Owning and caring for a pet takes a truly special individual.  Take your time with your grief.

There are many wonderful pet-support groups and hotlines.  If you find yourself unable to cope, you can seek counseling.

 

 

Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words:

 

Dear God,

Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you inheaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

 

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to Heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

 

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

 

 

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in Heaven.

Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you.

I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much.

By the way, I’m easy to find, I am wherever there is love.

 

Love,

God

 

A Reader’s Review:   “You can’t read this story without a tissue. This is a touching story about a boy Riley who wants to make his retriever Jasper’s last day very special. Together the family celebrates what a great companion Jasper has been by visiting many of the places that have been special to him. I would read this story along with my child. Although sad, it is a sweet story of a family’s love and respect for a dog they certainly viewed as a member of the family.”

You can purchase a copy from this link  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/jaspers-day-marjorie-blain-parker/1006326945

Daily Bible Studywith SEEDS OF THE KINGDOM
Updated: Saturday, 19 December 2009, 8:26 (GMT)

17 December 2009 | Expressing Grief

Jesus wept. John 11:35, NIV

Our young grandson has just experienced his first loss of a pet.This nearly three-year old hamster died over the weekend and he was heartbroken. His parents handled it well. His dad asked him if he wanted to hold it, which he didn’t, but together they went and buried it in the garden. He spent a tearful evening with both of them and the next morning said to his mum,”I don’t know how I am supposed to feel”, possibly thinking that it was “only” a hamster and should he be feeling so upset. Her reply was that it was quite all right for him to feel sad and that it was natural to miss the little creature for a time. I have prayed with many people who experienced the loss of a close relative, sometimes a parent, when they were very young and were never able to grieve. Now, as adults, they have discovered a well of untapped grief which they have never expressed. Probably the adults around them at the time wanted to spare them the pain of loss and so from the best of motives they didn’t encourage the expression of grief. But now the buried feelings have either come to the surface or else all emotions have become trapped under a layer of concrete. Jesus freely expressed His emotions. On two occasions we read that He wept, once when He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus back to life and once over Jerusalem. He was not ashamed of His tears, nor of people seeing Him crying. Children should be encouraged to grieve, to know that people, and creatures, that they love are going to die sometime,and that they should not bury their feelings.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Thank You that You have given me emotions through which I can experience the fullness of life. Please help me to express them all in a right way and not bury the uncomfortable ones. Amen.

Today’s Writer

Angela Weir has been associated with Ellel Ministries from the very beginning, first as an associate member of the ministry team and later as an associate teacher. She trained as an actress and after her marriage and move to Cumbria, taught drama in a girls’ school.

Aultman game wins over kids experiencing loss

By Cheryl Powell Beacon Journal medical writer
POSTED: 12:00 p.m. EDT, May 05, 2010

CANTON: Dealing with the death of a loved one is hardly child’s play. But a Northeast Ohio hospital is marketing a new board game designed to help children share their emotions in a nonthreatening way. Aultman Health Foundation’s Grief Services recently began selling its Doggone Grief game to counselors, schools, funeral homes, support groups, families and other customers nationwide. The colorful board game features photos of about 100 dogs submitted by Aultman employees. The pooches’ pictures represent four basic emotions that players are asked to discuss: sad, mad, scared and happy.

”The game just opens the door and helps them feel more comfortable,” said Brenda Brown, director of Aultman Grief Services. Compassion Books Inc., a national company based in North Carolina, is selling Doggone Grief on its Web site and through its catalog, which is distributed to about 40,000 to 50,000 people nationwide. The 20-year-old company sells books, CDs, videos and other resources to help people deal with death or other losses. Compassion Books Director Bruce Greene said the company opted to sell the board game because it’s ”really well thought out and appealing to kids.

” ”There have been various board games that have come out to use in schools and things like that, but most of them are pretty minimal,” he said. ”We didn’t really want to carry one until we saw this one. . . . It just had more substance than the others I had seen.” Brown came up with the idea for the game several years ago after trying unsuccessfully to find a game to use with children during grief support groups she leads in Canton-area schools. ”I knew that playing a game or something fun or interesting would grab their attention and get them to talk,” she said. ”I thought, ‘We’ll just make our own.’ ” After getting the go-ahead from her boss, Brown enlisted graphic artists in Aultman’s media department to help design the game board and cards. The Canton-based health system contracted with a Las Vegas company called Board Game Design to produce the game, which is manufactured in China. A $3,000 donation from Dr. William Wallace and his wife, Candy, helped fund some of the upfront cost for the project. Brown, a dog lover, decided to feature canines in the game as a fun way to get kids to open up about their feelings.

”There are times that dogs make you happier than nobody else can, because they love you unconditionally,” she said. As players move their dog-shaped game piece around the board, they land on spaces and pick up a corresponding sad, mad, scared or happy card. Each of the cards includes an employee’s pet depicting the emotion and a question for the player to answer. One of the sad cards, for example, states: ”Sadie has a blank look on her face like everything is just fine, even though it’s not. Do you have times you pretend that everything is just fine, too? Please share.

” On a recent morning, seven students in a weekly grief support group at Lehman Middle School in Canton shared a mixture of laughter and sadness while playing Doggone Grief. After drawing the emotion cards, the children talked openly about everything from how they deal with anger to the things they miss about their deceased loved one. ”The thing I miss the most is her saying ‘goodbye’ when I go to school,” said eighth-grader Cody Warehime, 14, whose mother died in October. ”It’s the little things you miss,” agreed seventh-grader Jessica Coram, 13, who had two relatives pass away.

Amy Harrison, a counseling intern at the school from Walsh University, said several of the children in the group refused to talk about their feelings until they started playing the game. ”It’s a tool that we can use to help the kids,” she said. ”I definitely saw them open up more when we started playing the game. They would answer questions during the game that they wouldn’t answer without playing the game.” Seventh-grader Amanda Stamper, 13, said the game helped her talk about her father, who died when she was 4.

”When I came in, I used to not talk about what happened, because it was too hard to talk,” she said. Brown said the game can be played with all ages, but it’s primarily marketed for children. Doggone Grief retails for $35 and is available in the Aultman Hospital gift shop,Some national distributors, including Compassion Books (http://www.compassionbooks.com/products/Doggone-Grief-Board-Game.html) also are starting to sell the game. So far, nearly 200 of the first 1,000 games produced have been sold nationwide and in Canada. Proceeds are used to support Aultman Grief Services, which offers support groups, school programs and other services to help people experiencing loss.


Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or chpowell@thebeaconjournal.com.

Pet Ohana

For Thursday, November 5, 2009

By Hawaiian Humane Society


Tell children the truth about pet’s death

 

QUESTION: Our family cat recently died, and we’re at a loss on how to explain this to our young children. What can we tell them?

 

ANSWER: If you hide your grief, children could fear that sorrow is unnatural. If you tell them that your cat simply went to sleep forever, they might fear sleep. It’s best to tell them the truth and that it wasn’t anyone’s fault and your pet is no longer in pain. Encourage them to talk about fun and happy times with your pet. Planning a celebration of life is a way for them to make this a happy ending.


The Hawaiian Humane Society welcomes questions by e-mail, hhs@hawaiianhumane.org. Indicate “Pet Ohana” in the subject line.

Join the Star-Bulletin’s Pet Ohana today!

We’re starting a new blog and want to show our readers your critter companions, whether they’re furry or scaly, feathered or finned. E-mail your pet photos to nancy@starbulletin.com, along with the pet’s name, where he/she lives and any other details you’d like to share about your pet. We’re also happy to include the human companion’s name, but that’s optional. Your pet’s photo will be published on starbulletin.com for all your friends and family to see.