What I Learned From Online Bereavement Support Groups

By Elisa Black-Taylor

I’m writing this as a memento, and also a legacy, for the six month anniversary of my dear dog Dreyfuss. Everyone at PoC knew Dreyfuss. He was the dog who loved cats. Cats sleeping with him, cats using him as a launching pad. Or, as in Furby’s case, a cat with the bravado to slap him on the nose. Dreyfuss was always kind to all of the cats. My last article about Dreyfuss chronicled his death and the memories he left behind on all of the lives he touched. It can be found here.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines bereavement as

“the state or fact of being bereaved or deprived of something or someone.”

I’ve found personally that the best way to handle my grief over losing Dreyfuss is to stay busy. So I either write or use my free CraftArtist software to make memorial pages. The link to the scrapbook software is www.daisytrail.com and they’re always offering either free or low cost kits to use with Craft Artist.

Collage of a dog that loved cats

Collage of a dog that loved cats. Collage by Elisa

I admit as the six month anniversary of my dogs passing drew nearer, my need to write increased. I haven’t been on PoC as often lately because I’m now trying to get into Dog Writer’s Association so I can cover both cats and dogs with a more professional portfolio. I’m currently the #6 pet writer in the U.S. for examiner.com. Some days I think I’m trying to drive myself insane by writing so often. Like I said, grief over losing a pet (or a person) is handled differently by each of us.

Seeking support in a group setting

For those seeking support in a group setting, pet bereavement sites suggest you call your local humane society to see if it offers a pet loss support group or knows of someone who does. Many veterinarian offices now carry bereavement material. Some community pet bereavement groups even have scheduled meetings. A few I found even have picnics.

Your level of grief may depend on your age, your pets age and the circumstances surrounding your pets death. There are no cases exactly alike. Someone whose pet met a violent end will likely have a much harder time dealing with grief than a pet companion who lost an elderly pet to natural causes.

Listen to someone who has lost a pet

One thing I’ve learned even before reading up on pet bereavement groups is that people can be cruel and try to downplay the topic. Don’t argue with those who belittle you as to whether your grief is appropriate. This may mean seeking help from those outside your usual circle of friends. It’s a hard reality to realize your friends and family may think you’re “taking too long” to get over losing your pet. That why it’s best to reach out to others who have lost a pet, because only someone who has lost a pet can truly understand your pain.

Create a legacy to your pet

One suggestion I found on an online bereavement site is to create a legacy to your pet. This can be done by making a memorial spot in your home where you’ll display your pet’s urn and perhaps a favorite toy or photo. If you’ve buried your pet in a favorite outdoor spot, memorialize that spot with a tree. There are even companies that make tombstones for pets. Feel free to personalize that outdoor spot with small statues or even treats.


If this pet also belonged to your child, allow the child to take part in the grieving process. This may mean helping schedule a funeral. Also be sure to explain to a child why a pet must be euthanized. Or why their pet died. To ignore the topic may lead the child into believing either they caused the pets death, or you caused the pets death. It’s better to be honest up front and use this as an opportunity to teach your child that grief is natural.

Watch out for those who would exploit you. There are many companies out there that will take every dime you’re willing to give them by trying to sell you services or products you don’t need.

Did we do the right thing?

Personally, I belong to a few online support groups that are free to join. Several pet websites have a Rainbow Bridge section. Social media pages such as Facebook also have a good number of groups to join that will enable you to act with others who have lost a pet. I also found a few pet bereavement websites that offered online chat rooms. Overall, I’ve learned we all share similar emotions. We all asked the same questions such as “did we do the right thing” and “was there anything we could have done differently.” It’s nice to know you’re among friends(whether online or in person) who know what you’re going through because they’ve gone through the same thing.

Be Patient, Keep Healthy

One thing to remember is that through your grief, you have to take care of yourself. Exercise, try to eat right and get enough rest so your physical health isn’t compromised. Dealing with grief is time consuming, but most bereavement support groups agree the grief will ease up over time. Bouts of grief will eventually give way to emotional pain that may only rise up when something reminds you of your pet. This can be a favorite toy, or being in a place that was special for the two of you.

As for me, I keep my “sons” urn (in my mind he WAS my son)on my nightstand right beside the clay paw impression made at the time of his cremation. I’ve been assured this is normal behavior for a grieving pet parent. For the record, so is sleeping with the urn actually in the bed with you.

I doubt there’s even one of you out there who hasn’t been affected by the profound grief that comes from losing a pet. How did you handle it? Please feel free to offer suggestions or even good websites that helped you cope with the loss.


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What I Learned From Online Bereavement Support Groups — 5 Comments

  1. The first time I went through cat passing bereavement, I did it alone, and there was lots of tears, guilt, sadness and more.

    It was 1994, before I had really got involved with the internet.

    The second time the beautiful PoC regulars helped me through it. Things were easier. So, I agree that we need people to help us. Or put it this way, good friends make the healing quicker.

    I have said it before many times: I have not got over the loss of my first cat. I know I never will. I was so damn stupid. Too much guilt and sadness.

    • Michael I’m so sorry to hear you still feel this way please don’t beat yourself up I’m sure your 1st beautiful cat never did and never will blame you. All you’ve done for cats over the years makes up for any wrong you felt you did millions of times over you do so much good for cats 🙂

  2. I’d really never thought about how a child might think they were responsible for a pets death or that the parent was responsible. I remember the old movie What Dreams May Come where the kids blamed the parents for euthanizing their dog.

    Don’t feel bad Michael. I still feel guilty over sending Tom up for adoption. I tried to get him back three days later and was told he had a rescue. Then I got word he’d gotten sick and had to be euthanized. I’ll blame myself forever for his death.

    At least there was no guilt with Dreyfuss. But I want my dog back. Life will never be the same without him.

  3. I only had Red for a year and losing him was awful. I can’t imagine how it is for those who lose a pet after many years. It’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if Red hadn’t passed. He was so young and full of beans. I
    m sure he’d be running around happily outside as I type this because the weather just got a bit warmer. I am really not over his death at all. In fact I went to see a therapist about it last week. I am having a real problem coming to terms with the fact that winter is over and summer is coming and there will be warm weather. I’m quite scared of this. When I talked to the therapist it became very clear that I really had not gotten over it at all and actually alot of things were just frozen for me since it happened. I still haven’t opened the shutters to the balcony and where Red and Lilly used to go in and out. This is the area I plan to enclose so my cats can spend a bit of time outside in the small are which is my balcony. But since the last day of last June the shutters have been closed. I forgot what is on my balcony. It’s sort of frozen in time out there since Red died.

    Dreyfuss sounds like he was a wonderful dog to spend time with and one who loved cats. A perfect sounding dog.

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