When you lose a loved one you are directed towards support groups to help you with your loss. To be with people who understand what you are going through and know you are never alone…but what about when your pet dies? Where do you turn to then? Where do you go for support and comfort?
Here at Electric City Animal Clinic we provide the community with a place to cope. We realized that the loss of a pet- whether it is a dog, cat, horse, bird, goat, or reptile- can be a profound loss to a pet owner and their family. It has been likened to losing a family member, but there is still a stigma in society against someone grieving for a pet. We hear things like “It was just a dog”, when in fact our pets are so much more than that. We want people to know that “You’re not ok, and that’s ok. You will be ok again.”
Our goal has been to create a safe place for grieving pet owners to come together in a peer led support group, and to lend our support through phone, email, facebook, and in any way that we can to help a grieving pet owner through this process.
Our first meeting was held in May of 2015, and our speaker was Debbie Schmitz from Hospice of the Upstate. She had some great insight to the grief process and taught us what to expect when we are grieving, and the so-called “Five Steps of Grief”. Surprisingly, there was a lot of laughter at that meeting and at each once since. New friends were made, and there was a feeling of fellowship that was just beyond words.
Since then, we have had meetings to talk about specific stages of grief, how to help your kids deal with grief, how to memorialize your pets, candlelight memorials, and dealing with holiday grief. For our next meeting, guests are encouraged to bring photos and stories of their pets and we are going to make two scrapbook pages while we talk- one for our scrapbook and one for theirs.
Our pet loss support group, “On This Side of Rainbow Bridge”, is the only one in Upstate SC. It is led by Mandy Ford, a licensed Veterinary Technician, and she often finds it as helpful to her as to the pet owners who attend. Mandy takes a great personal interest in making sure each animal that crosses the rainbow bridge is memorialized in some way, often by hand lettering their name in calligraphy in our scrapbook, adding their photo to our digital frame in the lobby that is dedicated to those who have crossed the bridge, and preparing memorial seed packets and clay paw imprints. She also personally calls each pet owner just to see how they are doing. If you would like more information about “On This Side of Rainbow Bridge” check out our facebook page at www.facebook.com/onthissideofrainbowbridge or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.