From Hope Hospice:
Recognizing the sound of your car as it enters the driveway, your dog heads straight to the front door to greet you with tail wagging and body wiggling as soon as you open the door. Or maybe you’re a cat person. After you’ve finished a challenging day at work, your cat lovingly rubs against your leg, and automatically, almost magically, your stress level decreases.
Pets provide unconditional love and are often viewed as part of the family. But what happens when a beloved pet dies and there is no longer a four-legged creature to greet you at the door? Many people report feeling a deep sadness and emptiness akin to loss of a human family member. Those who mourn the loss of a cherished pet may benefit from a new service being offered by Hope Hospice in Dublin and the Valley Humane Society.
The grief that people experience following the loss of a pet can be devastating and just as painful as the grief they experience following the death of a human loved one. Grieving is a difficult, natural process and a vital part of healing. Because each person handles grief differently, each grief journey is unique. Some people benefit from extra support during this journey. Hope Hospice and the Valley Humane Society have expanded their partnership to support people who may benefit from special care following the death of a favorite companion animal.
A new Pet Loss Support Group meets twice a month at the Grief Support Center at Hope Hospice in Dublin. The group creates a safe place for people to describe the events that led to their pets’ death, to share memories, to ask questions about the grieving process and to learn ideas for memorializing their pet. Attending the group can be a useful step in the grief process by helping people to openly experience the pain of loss and to memorialize pets in appropriate ways. The goal of the group is to help individuals learn how to live with their loss and move forward, not to “get over” the loss or forget about their special family member.
Michele Shimamura, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Hope Hospice, has provided grief support for individuals and groups for 11 years and facilitates the bimonthly Pet Loss Support Group. Shimamura says that she has enjoyed the unconditional love of her own pets for more than 60 years. With every pet’s death, she admits that she has mourned in different ways, learning and growing from each experience.
Valley Humane Society and Hope Hospice understand and value the important role that pets play in people’s lives. For the past five years, the two Tri-Valley non-profit organizations have worked in partnership to offer pet services to hospice families: walking and feeding patients’ pets, placing beloved pets in new homes following the death of patients, and bringing pet therapy dogs to visit patients. The new Pet Loss Support Group is an extension of this successful partnership to support pet lovers.
The Pet Loss Support Group meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month from 7:00 – 8:30 PM at Hope Hospice, 6377 Clark Avenue, Suite 100, Dublin.
The group is open to the community, and there is no fee to attend; however, attendees should call Hope Hospice at (925) 829-8770 or (510) 439-4917 to participate in a phone interview prior to attending.