Tuesday, September 30, 2014

State of the Heart Hospice And Animal Clinic Cooperate on Grief Support Project

Pictured at the Animal Clinic is Dr. Ronald Anders and Debbie Bryson
State of the Heart Hospice and the County Animal Clinic in Coldwater are working together to develop a “pilot” project, which is a first for the area: A pet loss support group for those who have lost an animal they loved and who need help dealing with their loss.

“They reached out to us to help them develop a pet loss support group,” explained Ashlee Carder, a music therapist and grief support specialist for State of the Heart. The nonprofit agency provides care to patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. An important part of the services provided is grief support.

“We are so thankful for the support from State of the Heart on this,” stated Debbie Bryson, social media coordinator for the animal clinic and the person who will facilitate the grief support groups. She was familiar with services provided in hospice care, particularly the grief support. “We are looking for the hospice staff to guide us in this venture,” she added.

The group sessions will begin Monday, October 20, then held again on Monday, October 27 at the clinic office, 800 N. Seventh St. in Coldwater. Following those two initial sessions there will be a weekly session on the first Monday of each month for five weeks, beginning on November 3. The sessions are free and open to anyone who has lost a pet, regardless of association with hospice or the County Animal Clinic. It is necessary to register for the support groups with the clinic at 419-678-3610. Refreshments will be served at the sessions.

Earlier this summer, Bryson said the staff noted a large number of pets had either died of natural causes or had been euthanized, which happens periodically. “We realize how people are affected by the loss of a pet,” she added, “and we wanted to do more to help our customers who were grieving the loss of their pet.” She said the pet can be a dog, cat, horse, cow, or other animal that the person cared for. The clinic provides services to both large and small animals.

The State of the Heart bereavement staff will work with the clinic personnel, helping guide them in developing their support program. “We hope to learn from the hospice staff, particularly gaining insight into how to work with the grieving person, learning what things are comforting to say and those which are not,” Bryson said. “It will be a program development through trial and error,” she added.

Traci Straley, Director of Social Services for State of the Heart Hospice, noted that the collaboration for a pet therapy program is a “first” for the hospice program. “We are pleased to be involved in the development of the program. It will be rewarding to take our knowledge and insight about grief support with individuals who have lost a loved one to a new dimension of helping those who have lost a pet that was special to them. The same principals will apply in reaching out to those individuals.” State of the Heart has collaborated with numerous community partners offering assistance with grief support.

Dr. Ronald Anders, the veterinarian and owner of the animal clinic, stated that there is nothing else in the area like the program that will be offered. He said the “pilot project” could be a concept that other veterinary clinics could develop after the model and offer it to their customers.

His wife and practice manager for the clinic, Beverly Anders, commented that “it is often hurtful when someone loses their pet and someone casually says ‘oh it was just a dog or just a cat’.” The loss of an animal can be very difficult for many people, she said. She added that the program will expand as new ideas are generated and ways to help people are initiated.

Carder said the animal clinic staff will be trained in learning the various stages of grief and what is needed at those various stages in terms of support. And, they will learn that not all people grieve in the same way.

“We are glad that the folks at the clinic reached out to us,” she said. “It is something new for us and will be a new challenge. In our hospice bereavement support we help those who have lost a loved one, and in this instance dealing with pets, there is the realization that person is grieving the loss of a loved one.”

State of the Heart Hospice has cared for patients and families for the past 33 years. Grief support is free and is offered to both adults and children, and there need be no association with hospice care to use the grief support services. For more information about the agency, visit the web site at www.stateoftheheartcare.org.

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