Grief hits hard after loss of a pet

Most dog owners would know: the loss of a pet is the loss of a family member

Joy Johnston Davies lost two dogs, Shadow, a black and white lab in 2009 and Shaquira, a mixed great dane and bullmastiff, in 2012.  They both passed at home with the family at their side.

“We kind of knew Shadow was going to pass, but Shaquira was a complete surprise,” she said.

The loss of a pet can be a devastating experience and sometimes a person may not know how to cope with the loss. Now those who need to talk to someone outside their group of family or friends can.

Jennifer Chiasson, a Pet Loss and Bereavement Counsellor, has been working in the field since she received her certification in New York in 2008.  She and a colleague started a support group for pet loss in March of this year at Pawsway.

Although there are services that provide this type of specialized counseling, Chiasson feels that there isn’t enough awareness.

“These services are available to people but they don’t know about it,” she said.  “Society doesn’t realize what type of impact it has on one’s life when they lose a pet; it’s very similar to losing a child.”

After the passing of her dog, Jake, and her younger sister, Chiasson felt she wanted to turn all the loss she had experienced into something positive and decided that pet loss counselling was the right path.

Chiasson says these counselling groups are extremely important for people who want to talk about their feelings and tell their story. They know that there are others going through the same thing.

“It helps you realize ‘okay I’m not going crazy, these emotions are normal and I can work though them,’” she said.

Reaching out to friends and family that have pets is the first step when dealing with the passing of a pet. Not all people feel that they need outside support.

Sometimes just talking about it and sharing stories about your pet can help with the healing process.

That’s what Davies said helped her get through it. Her two new dogs, Bailey and Zoey also helped.

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