Hospice holding workshop for grieving pet owners

Dealing with grief after losing a family pet can be difficult.

Katie Greene, a licensed clinical social worker who serves as volunteer coordinator for Columbus Hospice, said the death of an animal can have as great an impact as the passing of any member of the family.

"People can feel the same emotions. There can be guilt, anger, denial," Greene said.

Greene will be conducting a free Pet Loss Grief Workshop at Columbus Hospice on Moon Road.

There will be four opportunities to attend.

The workshop is designed to help those that have recently experienced the death of a pet to better understand their loss.

The first workshop will be tonight from 5-6:30. Others will be August 11 from 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m., Sept. 15 from 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. and Oct. 20 from 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Those interested should call 706-569-7992 for information and a reservation.

Greene knows all about the love of a pet. She now has three dogs, but it wasn't that long ago that she lost one who had been her friend for a long time,

Greene said Mickey, a cocker spaniel, had been a constant in her life, bringing her joy, from the time she got the dog as a little girl all the way through college and more.

"Pets are an important part of people's lives," Greene said. "For many people, their pet is their closest companion. A pet can be a huge source of comfort. Animals give love unconditionally and don't judge us. When you lose that pet, it can be devastating. It can leave a huge hole in a person's life."

Terri Roberts, Columbus Hospice director of volunteer services, said this is the first time a program like this has been done at the facility but that Columbus Hospice has already shown that it understands the importance of pets as it recently began its Pet Peace of Mind program that enables patients to keep their animals by having volunteers making sure the animals are provided routine health care and nutrition.

Greene said it can help a person who is in grief to talk about their loss with others who have also had a pet die.

"Sometimes people just need to tell others about their pets. We are hoping that those who come will share their stories with us," Greene said. "People should express their grief."

She wants people to bring photos of their pets. Each participant will design a memorial to their pet that they will be able to keep.

"We'll create a legacy. I think it will be something people participating will like," Greene said.

She said people handle the loss of their pets in different ways.

"Some people can go right out and get another pet, another companion. Others just can't," Greene said.

She said there is normal and abnormal grief. Some people let their grief affect their own health, and that is not good.

For those who need therapy they will be given information about where they may receive help.

Greene said there is no normal timetable for grief. Some grieve longer than others.

While some people ask why all the fuss should be made about an animal, Greene said those who have lost a dear friend should not feel ashamed that they are grieving.