Comfort for the grieving
The average life span of a dog is between 10 and 12 years; cats live 2 to 16. After that comes the heartbreak.
For 20 years veterinarian Lucy Richardson has helped pick up the pieces when necessary.
She’s now behind a dedicated effort, a Facebook group called Figtree: Friends in Grief.
“I just see the need every day for this kind of communication between people,” she said. “They feel lonely, isolated, and want something that allows them to grieve publicly and privately and get advice from people trained in this kind of grief process.”
The online support group is free and open to everyone, not just her clients, said Dr Richardson, who owns Cedar Tree Vets Limited.
The site gives information on how to deal with grief and allows people to share memories or post pictures of lost pets, and celebrate their anniversaries.
If in need of one-on-one counselling, they can send an e-mail to Dr Richardson, or call. The vet describes it as a “resource for anyone who is struggling with the grief they are experiencing after the loss of their pet”.
“The latest research shows that losing your pet companion is as painful, if not more painful, than losing a parent or partner,” she stated. “Often the worst losses are felt by older people who may be living alone with their pet.
“For them, their pet was the reason for getting up in the morning and gave them someone to talk to through the day.
“We want to provide a platform for anyone who is grieving for their animal to talk to other people who understand their sadness and loss.
“We also want to provide ways to handle grief if needed and show that they are not alone.”
She launched the page last month. “For years I’ve had clients who’ve said they’ve lost a sister and not felt it as hard as their dog,” Dr Richardson said.
“It’s your companion, your reason for getting up in the morning. Once gone you really feel that loss very acutely.
In day-to-day practice, particularly with older people who have lived with animals and had them put to sleep, the owner suffered a health setback at that point. So it’s a health issue as well as an emotional issue.
“I have had people contact me ten years after, who still want to talk about their pet, the loss of their pet, maybe on the anniversary of a pet’s death or their birthday.
“They want an uplifting site where they can talk about the loss of their animals.”
She understands it’s something that people who have never owned a pet likely will not be able to relate to.
“If you don’t live with an animal you wouldn’t understand what it feels like to lose one. You feel it very acutely and for years after.
“The Facebook page is linked to the Cedar Tree website but it’s really a resource for anyone, for other vets in the community even.
“It’s bigger than just Cedar Tree. It’s more for the community, a community service.
“This was just a way for us to reach as many people as we can.
“People can phone us if they need to speak to somebody but it’s better if they do something then let it all build. We’re happy to talk them through it.”
• For help after the loss of a pet look for Figtree: Friends in Grief on Facebook, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 333-7077