Coping with Pet Loss | PAWS Chicago

Coping with Pet Loss

Resources and support in your time of need.

Welcome to PAWS Chicago’s Pet Loss Resource Page

Losing a very close four-legged friend is one of the hardest things a pet lover will ever go through. When you lose a pet, you lose a member of your family.

For many who are visiting, the loss of your beloved pet is either very recent, or will be happening in the near future. On behalf of everyone at PAWS, please accept our deepest sympathies. We hope that all of the following resources are helpful to you as you navigate through your feelings of grief and loss.

The resources posted here are meant to serve as general guide, and not intended to be a one-size-fits-all approach to grief and loss. Please treat the following as a supplement, or a starting point. Feel free to modify or expand on any suggestions or exercises you find here as necessary, and to navigate your grief journey in a way that best suits your needs and comfort level.

While these resources are designed to assist you during a difficult time, they are not a substitute for professional help. If you or someone you know is having a difficult time, we recommend that you consult a licensed professional counselor.


Exercises

The following Exercises are good places to start if you are looking for ways to actively grieve and process the loss of your pet. Pet loss is different in a societal sense, in that most will not be given bereavement leave from work, and there are some people out there who may not be able to understand what made the bond you have with your pet so special.

This list is not exhaustive, but consider trying several things on this list to help process the grief you are experiencing.

Scrapbooking, the old fashioned way or through sites like picmonkey.com, is a very visual way to process the loss of your pet, as it allows you to revisit many of the best memories you have with your beloved pet.

There is something very therapeutic about journaling, as it helps you secure your memories with your pet. It doesn’t have to be something that takes a whole lot of time, or something that is done in one session. One recommendation is that you keep a notebook and pen someplace convenient and journal pleasant or important memories as you think of them.

In a visible place in your home place some pictures, a candle, and some flowers. In memory of your pet light the candle, say some prayers, meditate, or simply remember the good times you’ve had together, while honoring the loving bond that was such an important part of your life.

Whether painting, drawing, sculpting, or composing music, for many artistic expression is one of the most effective and therapeutic ways to process grief. This also works very well for children in grief.

This can be a meeting of a few close family members, or a party including everyone who ever knew and loved your pet. The size is not important, but what is important is that this social affair is dedicated to your beloved pet, and a good portion of it is spent sharing memories and processing the loss together. Few emotions can be as socially isolating as grief, so during this time it is important to spend time with those who understand the loss we are feeling.

Tributes are a great way to outwardly display the love you have for your pet, while telling your unique story, while at the same time remembering and honoring your special bond. There are many places to post a tribute to your pet. Consider your social media or other free public forums like Hinsdale Animal Cemetery’s tribute page.

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Where To Go for Help

Chicago Area Support Groups

Free of charge to those in need.

PAWS Chicago1997 N. Clybourn Ave.
RSVP Required
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 687-4706
Third Wednesday of the month
7:00-8:00 PM
CVMA Wings100 Tower Dr. Suite 234
No RSVP Required
Burr Ridge, IL 60527
(630) 325-1231
First Wednesday of the month
7:30-9:00PM
Healing Circles15 Spinning Wheel Rd Basement
RSVP Required
Hinsdale, IL 60521
(630) 935-7915
Last Monday of the month
6:30-8:00PM
Anti-Cruelty169 W. Grand Ave.
RSVP Required
Chicago, IL 60654
anticruelty.org/events
1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month
6:30-8:00 PM
TreeHouse1212 W. Carmen Ave.
RSVP Required
Chicago, IL 60640
773-784-5488, ext. 227
First Saturday of the month
10:30-noon

 

Professional Counselors

Two known and trusted pet grief counselors in the Chicago area are:

  • Michelle Downey, PsyD
    180 Michigan Ave, Suite 2404
    Chicago, IL
    (312) 656-2928
    griefdr@gmail.com

Pet Loss Help Lines

When calling any of the hotlines, if there is no answer leave a message and a counselor will return your call. There is no charge for the hotlines (except for phone plan charges).

CVMA Wings - (630) 325-1600
University of Illinois - (217) 244-2273
Washington State University - (866) 266-8635
Colorado State University - The Argus Institute (970) 297-1242

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Determining the Right Time to Say Goodbye

PAWS Chicago highly recommends the services of Dr. Amir Shanan and Compassionate Veterinary Care when you and your family are struggling to know when it is time to say good-bye.

Compassionate Veterinary Care

Compassionate Veterinary Care specializes in:

Hospice Care Hospice is a system that provides compassionate comfort care to patients at the end of their lives. Hospice care is initiated when a veterinarian or the pet’s family recognizes that the pet has a terminal illness, and that hospice care might be a better alternative than further attempts to cure. Compassionate Veterinary Care veterinarians and staff explore with the pet’s family all the options and their consequences—ethical, medical and financial. The family is given time to think about the options and discuss them. A care plan is then developed, which is focused on an ongoing assessment of the pet’s quality of life, and on actions for increasing the pet’s comfort.

End of Life Consultations The death or loss of a pet is one of the most difficult things we ever experience. It is not the end to the relationship; but it is the end of the pet’s physical presence, which is a drastic, often devastating, change. Grief, commonly experienced before, during and after the loss of a pet, is often accompanied by a sense of loss of control over the course of events, lack of desirable choices, and powerlessness. Choosing between ever intensifying medical treatment, hospice care, or euthanasia is a difficult task for the pet’s family. Making the decision can be overwhelming, evoking anxiety, guilt, anger and other strong feelings. An End of Life consultation at Compassionate Veterinary Care gives parents of terminally ill pets the tools that help them cope with the painful reality. It helps pet parents make decisions so, when they look back, they will feel they made the very best choices available.

At Home Euthanasia Compassionate Veterinary Care veterinarians and staff know that losing a pet profoundly affects the pet’s family members. When euthanasia has become necessary, we are committed to making the experience as meaningful and positive as possible. We offer non-judgmental support, and information on normal manifestations of grief. We help families make decisions based on their values and beliefs. Ethical and spiritual aspects of end-of-life decisions are addressed as called for.

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Pet Burial and Cremation

When coping with the initial shock of losing your beloved pet, the last thing that one wants to think about is what to do with your pet’s remains. It is recommended that you research your options long before you will need to make the decision.

There are many options on how to memorialize your pet.You can bury your pet in a local pet cemetery or in a place of remembrance. Talk to your veterinarian for recommendations on the best places to do this. Cremation is a common choice as well, as the remains can be placed in an urn of your preference and can be with you forever or can be spread in an area of happy memories. Some resources for these services are listed below, however talking over options with your veterinarian will often help in the decision making process.

PAWS Chicago recommends the services of Hinsdale Animal Cemetery and Crematory for your needs during this difficult time.

Hinsdale Animal Cemetery and Crematory
(630) 323-5120
PetCemetery.org

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When the Time is Right

Continuing the Circle of Life helps us all heal.

Although the pet you lost will never be replaced, welcoming a new pet into your home can help to fill the void with some extra love and affection. Please consider adopting from PAWS Chicago or another No Kill shelter, where you can give the gift of life to a homeless cat, dog, puppy or kitten.

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