By Leader Contributor Coleen Ellis, Founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center
The death of a beloved pet is hard enough, yet layer on the restrictions and social distancing aspects of today’s world and a very alone feeling becomes even darker and more unbearable.
The world feels full of “cant’s” right now. Every day, the media and print are laced with restrictions, things we shouldn’t be doing, and things we can’t be doing. While the world’s pandemic is overwhelming within itself, suffering the death of a source of comfort, a provider of unconditional love, a family member … the feelings of loss become even deeper and more stifling.
While the world is full of “can’ts” right now, there are so many things loving pet parents and pet care professionals CAN be doing. Whether the timing is an end-of-life walk or the death is happening right now, pet parents still desire the experience of knowing they could still have a meaningful end in the loss of a precious and loved pet.
Below are some thoughts and ideas your firm can share with grieving family members to put the CAN back into the need for ritual, the need for permission and support in the death, and a meaningful chance to say goodbye:
- Record a message to the pet that can be played during the euthanasia procedure.
- Wrap the pet in an article of clothing with a familiar smell on it so the pet can still have a recognizable presence.
- Send along a favorite toy(s) with the pet.
- Have the euthanasia done near a window so the family can be visually present.
- Check with the veterinarian and have them perform the euthanasia in the comfort of the home. If a primary care veterinary professional is unable to do that, check www.IAAHPC.org for a listing of end-of-life professional veterinary organizations who will come to the home. Even if the euthanasia is being completed at home, there still might be social distancing elements. To stay connected to a pet during the procedure, wrap a special cloth piece around the pet, with the family at the other end of the piece of fabric.
- FaceTime or Skype during the euthanasia procedure so the family can still talk to their pet.
- Write a letter to the pet to have the veterinary team read while performing the euthanasia.
- Order some clay or make some at home with baking soda, corn starch, and water. Make an impression of the family’s hand and have that clay piece laying on the pet during the euthanasia.
- Have the veterinary team feed the pet their favorite treat during the procedure.
- If the pet is euthanized at a clinic, considering taking the pet home to spend family time and have a memorial service.
- Even if the pet is euthanized at home, keep the pet home for a few days to have final moments together.
For pet care professionals, find your “cans” as well for the pet parents turning to you for guidance during this new normal of saying goodbye:
- Stay in close communication, more than you ever have. Send them a sympathy card. Even better: Call them.
- Be very clear in communications prior to their appointment as to the expectations and protocols. Leave nothing to chance or interpretation!
- Encourage the family to share a story with their pet on your social sites or encourage the family to post a tribute to the pet on your website.
- Create a special group on your social sites just for those experiencing the loss of a pet during these more-than-difficult times.
- Be different and think outside of the box. What can you do that will give families “pawse” to know their grief was validated and meet their need to have a meaningful experience in saying goodbye to their beloved pet?
- Go outside and do a bubble release for the family. Imagine the scene of a family pulling away from your facility, looking back to see these tiny fragile bubbles so representative of life being lifted up — just for them and for their beloved pet.
- Give them something to hang onto when they leave, such as a clay paw print, a flower, a fur clipping, or a packet with grief information (to validate their sadness and the experience).
- Host a virtual memorial service for families experiencing the death of a pet. These could possibly be scheduled on a consistent basis so families will know when they can attend these special sessions.
- Host a virtual pet loss support group via Facebook Live, Zoom, or other platforms.
There is a list of cans in the can’ts. When dealing with the loss of a human or pet, validating the raw emotions of the death and the grief journey is such a need for those who love.
Thank you for letting me help you help those pet lovers who are looking to you for some light during their dark hours.