By Katie Johnson
Our pets are part of our families. If you experience the loss of a pet, you may have feel a range of emotions from shock to sadness to anger, but you don’t have to go through those feelings alone. Seattle Animal Shelter offers the free, weekly Pet Loss Support Group to help you through this uniquely difficult time.
Pet Loss Support Group leader Connie Starr reflected on the value of the group.
“When one is grieving, support is essential to healing. Pet loss falls into a category of grief called ‘disenfranchised grief,’ meaning society doesn’t recognize or support the loss,” she said. “The group attendees can share the pain of their loss and support each other. The facilitators also provide ideas for healing interventions – journaling, meditating, reading, exercising – and other resources.”
Six volunteers facilitate the group, rotating shifts so that you can usually expect two facilitators at every group. Most facilitators have personally experienced a loss of a pet, and all are animal lovers. As volunteers of the shelter, the facilitators are limited to discussing pet loss only. If other issues arise, visitors will be referred to another professional or group for support.
“Many [people] are also still in shock, so it’s incumbent on the facilitators to make them feel welcome, normalize their loss and then listen,” Starr said.
Still wondering what to expect at the group? There’s no need to sign up and you may attend as often as you like. At a Pet Loss Support Group meeting, you’ll be welcomed into a safe space of other animal lovers. There may be anywhere from one to 10 guests, and each will have an opportunity to share his or her story. Starr assures that whether you feel more like talking or listening, “people are amazingly kind and supportive.”
The Pet Loss Support Group has been supporting the Seattle community for 11 eleven years. The group meets every Thursday from 5:30-6:45 p.m. in the shelter conference room at 2061 15th Ave. W. Please enter through the door on 15th Avenue West. You can learn more about the group and other pet loss support resources on the Seattle Animal Shelter website.