Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting Through Grief

Tricia Smith, known for "Thursday Night Suppers" in honor of her deceased Boston Terrier, Molly, has started a new blog to help people overcome pet loss grief. It's called "Farewell Furry Friend." I caught up with her this week to find out more:

HTB: Tricia, I know the loss of your Boston Terrier, Molly, hit your family very hard. What are three things that have helped you cope with the grief?

Tricia: This is something that owners who have just lost a pet aren't going to want to hear, but what has helped me the most is just the passage of time. It's been almost nine months since Molly died. I still miss her, and I still feel sad, but the difference is my feelings aren't as intense as they were right after her death. Because the intensity has diminished I have better control over my emotions.

The second thing that helped me deal with my grief was talking to our veterinarian and getting assurances from him that Mike (husband) and I didn't do anything to cause Molly's death and that we did everything we could, within reason, to try and save her. Don't underestimate the importance of your veterinarian during this time. He or she really is a valuable resource to help you come to terms with your grief.

Finally, I found a lot of peace from an interview I conducted with a pet bereavement counselor in Omaha. During our interview I asked her to describe the stages of grief. It was during her description of guilt that she said something I had never considered. She told me one of the ideas that her clients found helpful was reminding them that it was part of their job to handle end of life issues with love, dignity and respect. That it is part of the responsibility of pet ownership to do for our pets what they cannot do for themselves, often at the end of their lives.

HTB: What do you expect to accomplish with your new blog, "Farewell Furry Friend?"

Tricia: I hope "Farewell Furry Friend" will help grieving pet owners find a little comfort from their pain and realize they are not alone and that their emotions are valid. It is also important to me that my blog encompasses the wide range of issues pet owners face after losing their pet: getting another dog, pet adoption, canine medical conditions, introducing a new dog into the family, etc.

HTB: I noticed you are considering adopting a dog now. How long has it been since you lost Molly, and what would you advise people to consider before adopted a new dog after losing a beloved pet?

Tricia: As I mentioned above, it's been almost nine months since Molly died. I think the absolute most important thing to do before adopting another dog is to make sure you have fully grieved the lost of your dog. If you don't, you won't be able to handle the stress that comes with adding a new dog to your life, and you will consistently compare your new dog with the dog you've lost. You won't be able to love your new dog for the individual creature he or she is.

Also, I would tell people to listen to their inner voice. If a situation seems odd or too good to be true, it probably is. Let me give you an example: A couple of months after Molly died, Mike came across an ad for two French Bulldogs. The problem? The woman was only asking $300 - for both. $300 for one is a steal; $300 for both, well, there's got to be a catch. But being big fans of the Frenchie, Mike called the woman and set up a time to meet her at her house - in Springfield, MO, 3 1/2 hours from our home in Overland Park!

Let me tell you something about grief-it can and it will make you crazy. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines grief as a deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement. It also defines crazy as being out of the ordinary. Because of our deep and poignant distress, Mike and I were acting out of the ordinary. We were, for all intents and purposes, crazy, because let’s be honest, only crazy people would drive 3 1/2 hours in a severe rainstorm for a "too good to be true" deal. When we finally arrived at the woman's house, things went from fine to "there's something definitely wrong with this situation." The French Bulldog siblings were adorable. They looked healthy and happy. It was the woman who made us feel uneasy about the whole situation. We caught her in a couple of lies, she didn't have any papers for the dogs nor did she have any medical records, and she refused to give us the names, yes names, of her veterinarians, so that we could have their medical records faxed to our vet. Mike and I thanked her for her time and left without the Bulldogs.

Please, please listen to your inner voice, do your research and take your time.

HTB: What resources would you recommend for people who are grieving pet loss? Are there websites, support groups, books, etc. that might help?

Sometimes the best resources are right in front of you. As I mentioned before, your veterinarian can be a great asset. He or she can help clear up any questions you may have about your pet's death. Look to family members and friends who loved your pet. My mom has been invaluable to me. She always says how much she misses Molly and has the best Molly stories. I would also suggest contacting your local Humane Society to see if they hold a support group for pet owners who have lost a pet.

Below are a few websites that I found helpful in dealing with my grief.

About.com Veterinary Medicine Loss and Grief

-Provides links to many different categories dealing with pet loss: support hotlines, pet hospice, euthanasia, dealing with guilt - just to name a few.

Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement

-The APLB is a nonprofit association that offers the services of volunteers who are professionally trained pet bereavement counselors. There is no cost for the APLB's services and membership is not required.

Pet Loss Support Page

-Provides links to other helpful websites and hotlines, tips on coping with pet loss and a guide to support groups and counselors.

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