How to support clients grieving the loss of a pet

With the growing popularity of pet memorial services, veterinarians have a variety of ways to offer support to clients who are grieving the loss of a pet.

Today, the family pet is just that – part of the family. Approximately 65% of American households have a pet, and altogether these families spent an estimated $75.38 billion on their fur babes in 2019. This deep connection between humans and their cats and dogs makes losing and grieving a pet all the more difficult, and as it continues to evolve, the veterinarian’s role becomes more and more important.

“When it comes to the pet-person bond, losing your companion can be more devastating and heartbreaking than losing a family member,” says Ashley Durkin, a registered veterinary technician at Wayside Waifs. “The relationship is built around them being constantly by your side and as a witness to your daily life.” Fortunately, the pet memorial industry is also evolving, giving you ample ways to support your clients during the grieving process.

Support and listen

When it comes to the loss of a pet, it’s important that you listen to the client. Find a quiet place like a comfort room for the family, so they can take the time that they need. Remind them that grieving is a natural part of the healing process, then respond compassionately to what the client is saying, with gentle acknowledgement of the loss.

Offer grieving kits, literature and access to helplines

Many veterinarians can and do offer brochures and catalogs for a variety of memorial products. You can also offer any general grieving literature that may be available, especially if your client has younger children or teens. Books are a perfect resource to help children cope with the loss of a pet.

Veterinary colleges also have helplines available to alleviate some of the grief and pain people experience when losing a beloved pet. The CARE Pet Loss Helpline provides support for pet owners experiencing pet loss or sickness, and helps them get back on their feet more quickly.

Respectfully recommend memorial service products

There are numerous services available for vets to offer their clients:

  • Memorial services and burials (and all that entails – caskets, headstones, etc.)
  • Print Pendants and Cremation Jewelry
  • Shadow boxes with pet mementos (favorite toys, etc.)
  • Sponsored tree plantings

Many pet parents are choosing to commemorate their pets with one of these services.

“It allows for a daily visual reminder of how special that relationship was, without having to leave your home – it’s something to make this terribly sad process a little easier,” says Ashley. A large number of vets and pet funeral homes offer mementos such as Buddies Pet Keepsakes® to their clients. On-site product displays show clients a range of keepsake designs that provide a sense of comfort during the grieving process. Paw and nose print keepsakes can blunt the sense of loss, and can solidify the feeling of a lifelong connection based on the senses of sight and touch.

Keepsakes and memorials are becoming more popular because they are meaningful ways to honor a beloved family member. Always remember to create an environment that gives your clients space to do what they need to do to honor their pet and the bond they shared together.

Sources and printouts for pet loss and grieving

OVC Pet Loss Support

UF Small Animal Hospital Pet Loss Support

The Grief Process

AVMA: Coping with the loss of a pet

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