By Michelle Nichols, M.S.
AHELP Project Director and Co-founder
Hospice philosophy puts great emphasis upon “Care for the Caregiver” (you!)
Supportive friends can boost both yours and your friend's moods when you are feeling down. Add a mental health professional to your Care Team for emotional guidance. (Photo: Michelle Nichols)
Putting your needs aside to care for your pet in the bittersweet times that come with end-of-life can be physically and emotionally treacherous. You’ll greatly benefit from your own supporters – especially if they’ve been there before and can “get it.” Don’t pass up the help offered by family and friends; you never know when you might need it. Unexpected support can come from those in your own community like neighbors and pet sitters, for example. Explain to them you want the best care you can give to your friend at this tender time. You could find that they consider it an honor to assist you, out of the warm feelings they have for your pet, coupled with respect for your efforts.
Consider consulting a mental health professional who fully appreciates that the sadness with your loss begins much before your pet has passed. These professionals can point you toward community resources that allow your healthy coping, living with the joys and challenges of this tender time in the final chapter of the shared life with your animal companion. With support from your interdisciplinary team of providers, in the comfort of home and surrounded by those he or she most loves, you and your animal companion have the best chance at being able to live life to the fullest.
If you don’t have access to an expanded team of providers, consider local support groups and online resources. While these groups might be called “Pet Loss Support,” they aren’t just for the period following the loss, and would welcome you all along your journey in your companion animal’s chronic illness and end-of-life. Look to local animal shelters and pet funeral homes in your area for their Pet Loss Support Groups. Online bereavement resources are suitable for before and after your beloved friend’s passing. You’ll also find Pet Loss Hotlines through some veterinary schools in your area. The Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement (www.APLB.org) offers an Anticipatory Loss Chat Room, conveniently allowing you support in the comfort of your own home.
In our next post, we’ll have AHELP Community member and human hospice licensed Social Worker Kristina Callender, LICSW to tell us more about anticipatory grief and how it applies to your animal hospice journey. Please contact Michelle at [email protected] if you have any questions.