"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." -Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43
Our beloved pets, we love them purely. We love them deeply, fully, and completely. They are our best friends, our confidants, our partners, our counselors. So often our pets are our support system; they understand us, they accept us, they forgive us, they love us unconditionally. The human/pet relationship is shaped by an emotional and physical commitment and this investment is powerful. The bonds we develop encourage and shape us on many levels. We are often better people because of this bond. We certainly are stronger, happier, healthier, more purposeful, and productive because of our pets.
At some point, most of us will be faced with the loss of a beloved pet. This loss can be devastating, the grief overwhelming and it can be difficult to find the much needed support that one might need when faced with the loss of a loved one. We can talk with our families, our friends, other pet owners. However, there may be times when professional assistance can best help us navigate the deep sorrow we feel when losing a beloved pet. We can turn to our veterinary professionals to help guide us.
Awhile back, I was faced with tremendous grief after losing several precious pets in a short period of time. Dr. Flood helped me find a grief counselor named Judy Heath, founder of the Life Guidance Center in West Ashley. Judy was a tremendous help: she encouraged me to laugh, cry, talk, write about my pets and other things. She helped me sort out a great deal of pain, helped me realize I was OK, grieving is OK. One resource I became aware of while working with Judy is the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement. It is a nonprofit organization committed to helping those grieving a beloved pet. Their services are free and available to anyone who is in need.
If you are in need of support, please know you are not alone. There is caring, committed help waiting to put its arms around you. Love is such an important experience. Shared love never leaves us, it stays in our heart.
I started with Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I end with Lord Tennyson - "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."
In truth, it all starts and ends with love.