Whether you recently experienced the passing of a pet or are having trouble letting go after some time has passed, The Heaven at Home team has resources that may help you through this difficult time. Books can be an invaluable part of your support system, and we’ve curated a few below that we feel will really help a pet parent navigate the loss. Read the rest of this entry »
The Heaven at Home team knows that grieving the passing of your fur-baby is difficult and requires all the support you can get. On top of dealing with your own loss, if you have children, you also have to help them navigate what might be their first experience of losing a loved one. Books can play a helpful role in helping your child through the process.
The following are a few of the “gold standard” books written for children that are designed to help grieve a pet who has passed. Read the rest of this entry »
Heaven at Home Pet Hospice treasures the memory of the pets our vets have helped pass peacefully. On Sunday, September 9th, we’ll join you in spirit remembering your fur-baby. Please feel free to observe National Pet Memorial Day on Sunday by sharing the story of the pet you’d like to remember on our blog’s In Memoriam section, or on our Facebook page, using the hashtag #NationalPetMemorialDay.
Ways to Observe National Pet Memorial Day
Keep both past and present pets in your mind. One popular tradition on this National Day is to plant a tree or a shrub as a living memorial. Other families make a special place in their homes, yards, or workplaces to honor their pet who has passed.
Summon up your memories of your companions to help you keep your animal’s love and presence in your heart. You can think of what was special about your fur-baby, and reminisce with family members or others who knew your friend. Look over old snapshots. Talk about the funny or silly (or annoying!) habits your pet had. Reflection will help you express and work through your grief.
Help with Grief
The West Michigan Pet Loss Support Group meets the second Tuesday of each month from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Heaven at Home, 1530 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids MI. All are welcome. Please RSVP with Group Facilitator Ginny Mikita at 616.460.0373 by noon on the day the group meets.
The first rule of grieving is that there are no rules.
Companion-animal-loving Pastor and Animal Advocate Ginny Mikita makes this clear to the people who gather each month at the West Michigan Pet Loss Support Group hosted at Heaven at Home’s cozy quarters on Monroe Avenue.
“It’s important to experience grief in whatever fashion it manifests. We need to set aside the idea there is one right way to grieve or certain feelings that are correct and instead give ourselves the grace to feel what we’re feeling without judgment,” said Mikita.
Mikita’s life-long love of animals led her first to law school at Notre Dame where she sought to represent the interests of animals, and later to the ministry, where she sought to help humanity foster love for all creatures great and small. Today you might find her donning her pastoral robes at a Blessing of the Animals ceremony or using her law degree to help the health-care industry navigate palliative care among humans. Whichever role she’s playing, the themes involve compassion and community, two things that benefit those grieving the deaths of their companion animals.
The Power of Group Support
“Sharing feelings in the safe space created by a support group can be the most powerful healing experience for people. It is healing to receive affirmation that others have experienced or are experiencing what you’re experiencing,” Mikita said. Read the rest of this entry »
Heaven at Home’s Dr. Laura Tay compiled the following tips to help children deal with grief over the loss of their pets after participating in a seminar by Kathryn Jennings, Executive Director of the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care (IAAHPC).
We at Heaven at Home thought this might be helpful for your family as you work through this difficult time.
Helping children cope
- Be straightforward and honest in all instances.
- Don’t hide your pet’s condition from children.
- Include them in caregiving.
- Discuss all treatment and end of life options together.
- Avoid decisions made in haste.
Preparing kids for euthanasia
- Create an environment where it’s safe to ask questions.
- Emphasize that euthanasia is a loving act of courage.
- Explain that natural death can be painful and cause suffering
- Help them understand the “need” for euthanasia when there are no other options.
- Educate them about the process—before, during, and after.
- Avoid the phrase “put to sleep” or “put down”.
- Younger children require a clearer explanation in order to understand the finality.
- Explain that the pet will die peacefully without feeling hurt or scared.
Should children be present or not?
- You, as the parent, know your child best.
- Recommended age is 10 and older.
- Whether they are present or not, allow them to view the body afterwards.
- Final goodbye can help kids to accept the reality.
How can I support my child through his or her grief?
- Grief cannot be fixed or analyzed, it must be felt to be healed. Children need someone to be present with them while they are experiencing the pain of grief as they mourn.
- Provide an environment that allows your child to feel and talk about the grief.
- Communication should be open, honest, and ongoing.
- Experience it together.
- Assure them they are not responsible for the pet’s death.
- The realization that death is permanent does not happen until around the age of 8.
- Encourage the expression of feelings verbally and/or through art.
- Know that children have a natural ability to “dose” themselves with grief and are able to take a break from it when needed. (They can do this much better than adults.)
How to discuss aftercare
- Avoid talking about burning or fire with respect to cremation.
- Cremation can be described as “returning to ashes”.
- Make it clear the pet is not hurt in the process.
- With respect to burial, describe how the pet will be placed in a box and laid to rest in the ground where he will be safe.
Honoring a pet’s life
- Rituals can help in acknowledging and accepting the loss, which is the path to healing.
- Make a tribute table
- Design a gravestone
- Assemble a scrapbook or collage
- Write a poem or story
- Plant a tree
- Make a donation in the pet’s name
- Volunteer at the animal shelter or Humane Society
- Just share stories and memories!
When/if to adopt again
- Involve the whole family; everyone needs to be in agreement.
- Adopting too quickly may delay mourning.
- Children may take longer to move through grief.
Heaven at Home Pet Hospice would like to remind everyone that National Pet Memorial Day is coming up on Sunday, September 10th, 2017. This is a day for people to remember their deceased companions in a warm, positive light and reflect on all of the happy memories from the course of the pet’s life.
The passing of a pet can hurt just as much as the death of a person, and looking back on everything that made our pets special to us is an important part of the healing process. National Pet Memorial Day is a fine occasion for pet caregivers to progress through the grief into a healing journey. Below, we’ve included a few ideas for commemorating your beloved pet this year:
- Share and reflect upon pleasant memories of your pet with loved ones:
Chances are, you are not the only one who misses your pet. Whether it’s with your family, your friends, or even neighbors, reflecting on funny moments or warm memories with people that knew your pet is a great way to celebrate their life and lift your spirits.
- If your pet is buried, go for a visit: Many people choose to bury their pets in a pet cemetery, and this upcoming pet memorial day would be a great opportunity to go say hello, spruce-up the site a little bit, and maybe leave a small bouquet or their favorite treat near the marker.
- Contribute to an animal welfare or protection group: We feel that one of the best ways to honor the memory of your pet is by helping other pets in need. Volunteering at your local shelter is the most direct way to make a difference, and is also a great way to spend some quality time with animals. If you are unable to commit time to volunteering, many organizations also accept donations.
- Create a small memorial in your flower garden, or plant a tree or a shrub:
Another way that people honor the memory of their pet is by creating a small memorial in their garden. It doesn’t matter if your pet is interred there or not – simply having a space that you can look to and remember your pet is what matters. Many people also will plant a tree or flowering shrub in their yard as a living memorial to their pet.
Heaven at Home has also created a space for grieving pet owners to make an online memorial. Here, you can say a few words about what your pet meant to you, what they were like, and share some of your happiest memories. You may also include photos of your pet! This can also help other grieving pet owners know they are not alone in their grief. If you would like to post a memorial, please email us at email@example.com with your memorial, and please feel free to include pictures!
Heaven at Home Pet Hospice knows there’s no easy way to say goodbye to your loyal fur-family member. However, through helping hundreds of Grand Rapids and West Michigan pet owners provide peaceful passings, Dr. Laurie Brush feels there’s therapeutic value to celebrating the life of your pet during a euthanasia home visit.
“Death is hard to talk about,” Dr. Brush says. “But it doesn’t need to be fraught with struggle. This might be the worst day of your life, but it doesn’t have to be the worst day of your fur-baby’s life. On the contrary, we can help your pet pass comfortably with dignity and compassion.”
By performing home euthanasia for companion animals, Dr. Brush’s goal is to prevent animals from experiencing the stress, and sometimes fear, of trips to the vet when unwell.
“Our service allows pets to be with their family one last time in a familiar, comfortable environment, surrounded by their favorite people, toys, bed, and blankets.”
Dr. Brush feels it’s important that clients are prepared for the process of euthanasia, and that they’ve had a chance to ask questions, complete paperwork, decide on burial or cremation options and otherwise be prepared prior to the time so they can focus on comforting their fur-baby and celebrating his or her life.
Planning for Pet Euthanasia at Home
While there’s no easy way to say goodbye, there are ways you can prepare for your pet’s passing in advance. Bringing treats, sharing stories, and thinking of ways to make your pet comfortable will all work together toward a loving departure. The following are a few considerations:
- There Are Forms to fill out: At the time of our house call we initially take care of the legal paperwork. A consent form is signed by the legal guardian as well as verification that your pet has not bitten or scratched anyone in the past ten days, to comply with the Rabies law. (If there has been a bite or scratch, we can still proceed, but Rabies testing and additional paperwork will be required so we usually try to discuss this in advance.) Other forms will ask you to confirm the type of cremation you have selected if that applies.
- Consider Your Other Pets: One advantage of at-home euthanasia for dogs and cats is that it helps the other animals in your home to know that their friend has passed because other pets will grieve for their friend too. They often know when another pet is sick or failing. It is thought that their noses will know that another pet family member has died. Giving them the opportunity to see and smell the deceased pet prevents them from continually searching for the pet who is no longer there.
- Decide Who Will Attend: If you’d like your entire family present to say goodbye, we can schedule a time to accommodate that. If you have children, explain what’s happening in advance to help them prepare for the loss of their friend. The American Humane Association recommends books such as Fred Rogers’ When a Pet Dies as a way to provide comfort and understanding for children. We have other resources on our website we often recommend such as Veterinarywisdom.com which has a good resource section for Pet Parents on kids and grief. Among other things, they suggest books such as “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant; “Cat Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant and “A Special Place for Charlie” by Debby Morehead.
- Communicating with Children about Euthanasia: It is best to speak in honest terms, at an appropriate level of detail for the child’s age. Very small children need to know that this is final – the pet isn’t going to wake up or come back. To say that the pet “went away” or is “in heaven” without offering any other details can also confuse children. Older children need to know the reasons why this decision is being made, and why it is humane for the suffering animal.
- Choose the Location: Many of Dr. Brush’s clients choose a pet’s “favorite” location in the home or yard to host the passing. This helps soothe the pet. Sometimes that means she’s found herself cuddling up in a closet to conduct the procedure; other times, enjoying a sunny day by a favorite tree.“What’s important is that the last resting place of the dog or cat is where they are comfortable. I think we’d all like to be in our favorite place when we die,” she said.
What To Expect In The Process of Euthanasia
Some veterinarians use a slightly different process for euthanasia, but at Heaven at Home, we always use a two-step procedure.
First, a mixture of medication is administered just under the skin with a small needle to help the pet relax. This sedative is used to create a deep, pain-free sleep for the animal that is peaceful for their owners to witness. This can take up to 15 minutes to have its full effect, and this time can be spent comforting your pet, remembering special times, or just sitting quietly, as you choose.
Once the doctor is sure that your pet is completely relaxed, and not feeling any pain, a final injection of pentobarbital is discretely administered. The Doctor will always tell you before performing this final injection.
Pentobarbital is a liquid barbiturate that will be given at a lethal dose. Because this solution has an anesthetic effect and depresses the central nervous system, your pet will continue to be unconscious and pain-free.
Once the solution has been administered, the Doctor will listen to your pet’s heart and will inform you when your pet has passed on.
When the muscles relax, there may be some body fluids or stool that passes. We are always prepared for this and will have some absorbent waterproof pads to help keep your pet, and surfaces under your pet, clean. Your pet’s eyes may not stay closed, but if this is uncomfortable for family members, we can help to close them. Sometimes, there are twitches or movements and/or sounds as the air and energy leave your pet’s body.
There are a few options for taking care of the deceased pet’s body. Heaven at Home can help you wade through these options, and can coordinate your pet’s cremation with a local crematory. Some people prefer to bury their pets. Local regulations and guidelines can be confirmed with the county where you plan to bury the pet. If cremation is chosen, Heaven at Home will take your pet after the euthanasia and arrange for cremation. We often work with Sleepy Hollow Pet Cemetery, which offers both burial and several levels of cremation: http://www.sleepyhollowpc.com/
Some of the options at Sleepy Hollow include:
- Private Cremation –Your pet is individually cremated. Cremains will be returned to the owner.
- Semi-Private Cremation –Two or more pets are cremated at the same time, but kept separate and a barcode system is used to identify your pet. Cremains will be returned to the owner.
- Memorial Cremation – Your pet is cremated with other pets. Cremains are interred at Sleepy Hollow
It usually takes about a week, give or take a few days, for cremains to be returned to Heaven at Home. Then we will contact you to make arrangements to get your pet home to you. Cremains are placed in a small floral tin unless a different urn is purchased.
Other Forms of Commemoration:
Heaven at Home and partner vendors such as Sleepy Hollow can help keep your companion close in spirit with cast paw prints, commemorative jewelry, and other items. Keepsakes can be especially helpful during the grieving process.
You may also find one of the following helpful: Planting a tree in your pets’ memory in a location they loved; donating to an animal protection organization or animal health research entity in their name; crafting a commemorative plaque; and creating a commemorative photo album.
Understanding Grief and Loss
Losing a pet is losing a family member for our clients. Grief and even feelings of guilt are expected after the loss of a pet. To move through the healing process, be certain to be kind to yourself, and talk about your feelings, emotionally and constructively, with others. Using a journal to explore your feelings will help ease the pain over time.
If the grief and sense of loss are overwhelming or prolonged, counseling and support is available from several sources, both online and off-line. For a variety of pet grief support articles, visit our friends at Veterinary Wisdom: http://www.veterinarywisdom.com/find-support-for-grief
Our local pet loss support group in Grand Rapids meets about once a month and is facilitated by Ginny Mikita. Please contact Ginny by phone at (616) 460-0373 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating.
There is also a pet loss support group in Muskegon by Clock Timeless Pets.
Please Contact Us for more information about either of these groups.
Be aware that pets may also grieve for the loss of their companion, too. They may exhibit grief by: not eating, not enjoying formerly favorite activities, or mild lethargy. Providing them with extra TLC and interaction with other pets may help to ease the transition for them. These behaviors should be mild and short-lived. If they persist or are dramatic, seek veterinary support.
Know You Did The Right Thing
Whatever you’re feeling, and however natural feelings of guilt may be, it’s important to understand the beautiful gift you’ve given your pet.
“A peaceful, pain-free passing is the greatest gift you can give your fur-family member at the end of a well-lived life,” says Dr. Brush. “No one wants their pet to suffer.”
In the bustle of the “most wonderful time of the year,” many are grieving the loss – recent and distant – of beautiful animals with whom we’ve shared our hearts and homes. Ginny Mikita, a friend and colleague of Dr. Brush, is hosting a candlelit memorial service for companion animals this coming Thursday, December 4th at 7pm. The service is being held at the Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church in Rockford. Ginny is a blessing of animals celebrant, grief support group facilitator, and memorial service officiant. If you or someone you know is in this life space, please plan to join in this interdenominational time of centering, acknowledgment, remembrance and release.
If you would like your companion animal’s name, breed and birth/death dates included in the Program, please forward it to Ginny by Wednesday. Ginny can be reached at (616) 460-0373 or at email@example.com. You are also welcome to bring a framed picture for inclusion in the Service.
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Meyers Lake Ave
Rockford, MI 49525
Veterinary Wisdom, a magazine run by World by the Tail, Inc., is centered around helping veterinarians and pet parents work in unity to create the most peaceful end-of-life experience possible for pets nearing the end of their life. Veterinary Wisdom was founded by Laurel Lagoni and Debby Morehead, whom Dr. Brush had the opportunity to meet at the IAAHPC conference.
Because Veterinary Wisdom is an internationally known magazine, World by the Tail, Inc. has been able to pull a variety of information from many different sources to create a truly helpful resource section on their website for pet parents. There are seven main resource sections on the website:
- Plan Ahead for Pet Loss Many pet parents find it very helpful to plan ahead for the loss of a pet. Although this can be a painful thing to think about, making decisions about what you want to happen when it is time to say goodbye can help you to have fewer regrets and be less anxious about the whole process. Talking to us here at Heaven at Home before it is even time to say goodbye will help the transition happen easily. The less stress you can have surrounding you and your pet, the better.
- Make Decisions Along with the scale found on our website, this section contains many free articles and checklists you can use to determine when it is time to say goodbye to your companion.
- Make Decisions about Pet Cancer Hearing that a pet has cancer can be devastating, and many people have questions about what this can entail. This section contains resources, including free eBooks, that will help pet parents understand what a pet’s diagnosis really means.
- Find Support for Grief Losing a pet truly is like losing a family member. It can be difficult for many people to deal with the grief that accompanies losing a companion animal. Find information on healing in this section.
- Euthanasia This section contains free articles and eBooks providing information on what to expect during the euthanasia process. Our website also has information on what to specifically expect from an in-home euthanasia performed by Dr. Brush.
- Kids and Grief It can be especially difficult for children to understand the death of a pet, including why our pets aren’t equipt to live as long as we are.
- Begin Again This section will help you to know when it is the right time to begin looking for new companions, and forming new bonds.
Be sure to check out all of the grief resources Veterinary Wisdom offers on their website here.
Sunday, September fourteenth is National Pet Memorial Day. Founded in 1972 by the International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories, this holiday allows people to remember their deceased pets in a happy light. Many people tend to remember their pets on the anniversary of their death, which leads to sad memories of the end of the pets life. However, Pet Memorial Day allows people to come together and encourages remembrance of the joyous, playful life they shared with their pet. There are various ways that people may choose to remember their pets.
- Look at old pictures Looking back at old photographs and reflecting on happy times you and your loved ones have shared with a pet is one of the best ways to celebrate this holiday. Taking time to reflect upon the happiest moments you shared with a late pet is guaranteed to lift spirits.
- Visit your pet’s resting place Many people choose to remember their pet by visiting the grave or final resting place of the pet. Bring the pet’s favorite treat or toy to place at the site. This is often a great way for children to remember the pet and the many happy times they shared together.
- Memorialize your pet There are many different ways to memorialize your pet. You can create a living memorial by planting a tree or a plant as a living tribute to your late furry friend. Adding a memorial to an already existing garden makes for a beautiful memorial site. Heaven at Home creates an paw print impression of each pet that passes, an excellent reminder for the family. Another awesome way to memorialize your pet is to create an online memorial. You can share memories of your pet, and even share pictures. Many people can now share their similar experiences and help each other through the difficult time of losing a companion animal. Heaven at Home has an In Memorium section here on the website, and we would love to help you share your happy memories with your pet. If you would like to post a memorial, please email us a firstname.lastname@example.org with your memorial, and please feel free to include pictures!
- Volunteer! Volunteering at a local humane society or animal protection group is a great way to surround yourself with animals! Spending quality time with animals is an amazing way to lift spirits and put a smile on anyone’s face. If you’re unable to donate your time, many organizations accept monetary donations as well!
- Attend a Pet Memorial CeremonyMany counties around Michigan and the country offer memorial services to help us remember our furry friends. A few ceremonies will be held in the Grand Rapids area this year. There will be a 1 o’clock Service of Remembrance at Clock Timeless Pets (located at 1469 Peck St, Muskegon MI 49441) and a 4 o’clock Service of Remembrance at Spring Lake Dog Park (located in Central Park, Spring Lake MI 49456). More information is available here.