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Grieving the Loss of a Pet? They Want to Help.

Feb. 4, 2024

The number of resources for coping with a pet’s death has grown in recent years as some providers noticed an uptick in demand for their services.

The death of a pet can leave its owner with complex feelings that they may struggle to process alone. “People sometimes think they’re going crazy,” said Colleen Rolland, the president of the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement.Credit…Andrew B. Myers for The New York Times

Weeks after Maria Sandomenico’s Chihuahua, Luigi, died last August, she shared a long post in a Facebook group for residents of the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn about how she was struggling to come to terms with her adopted rescue dog’s passing.

In an interview in January, Ms. Sandomenico said that in the seven years she had lived with Luigi, he had become her “north star,” trotting by her side in various custom-made clothes she had bought him. A pink and black pompom hat was his signature look, though he was also known to wear cashmere.

Ms. Sandomenico said she turned to Facebook when Luigi died because she didn’t want to burden her friends with her feelings, and because she craved connection with others who had experienced the death of a pet. She was surprised by how many people responded to her post saying they were also grieving the loss of an animal companion and didn’t know where to find support.

Maria Sandomenico turned to a Facebook group for pet owners in Brooklyn when her Chihuahua, Luigi, left, died last year. Soon after, she started hosting informal sessions where people could talk about the death of their pets.Credit…via Maria Sandomenico

Luigi had a fondness for hats and for cashmere items like this vibrant coat. Credit…via Maria Sandomenico

Not long after she posted in the Facebook group, Ms. Sandomenico, 53, who runs a dog walking and training business, met with several of its members at a local bar. She had invited them there for an informal grief-processing session. “Within like 20 minutes, everybody was breaking down in front of everybody,” she said. “They all have these really different experiences, except we all had the same, you know, feelings of just feeling like nobody understands.”

She described the meeting as cathartic. It “made me feel like I wasn’t freaking crazy,” said Ms. Sandomenico, who has a silver necklace with a picture of Luigi. She has since hosted another gathering and has plans to host them regularly.

Celeste Jones, an interior designer in Palm Beach, Fla., also struggled to find ways to cope with the death of her 12-year-old Maltese, ZsaZsa, in 2020. “The more that I searched and the more that I looked,” she said, “the more desperate I became.” Ms. Jones, 45, eventually paid for an online program that she said gave her the tools she needed to process her emotions. She has since started to host free online sessions for others grappling with pet loss.

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Live Webinar

Navigating Pet Loss & Grief

Thursday, June 6th, 2024
7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Eastern

Sponsored by:

Navigating Pet Loss & Grief, hosted by Moose’s
March, this webinar is designed to support pet
owners through the difficult journey and depth of
pet loss, anticipatory grief and understanding
guilt. This webinar will also provide 3 key
takeaways for the management of grief,
Featuring insights from renowned experts
Colleen Rolland, Association of Pet Loss and
Bereavement and Dr. Nancy Curotto, Pet Loss &
Bereavement Specialist. Attendees will have an
opportunity to ask questions of the experts.

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