Animal bereavement support group; Learning from loss – Avon – Towne Post Network
Animal Grief Support Group helps the healing process
Screenwriter / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Anyone who’s been through the agony of grief knows he‘is harsh and unrelenting, especially during the first few weeks and months when you’re trying to find stable ground in a turbulent world. Generally, what helps us through these difficult days is the support we receive from friends, family, colleagues, counselors and perhaps a support group. But what about when we have to say goodbye to a beloved pet? This‘is not that society is insensitive, but sometimes grief is ignored when the loss is “just an animal,” and there is no animal bereavement support.
“Animal bereavement is a form of disenfranchised bereavement, which occurs when your loss goes against cultural norms and is therefore not‘It is not considered valid, understandable or acceptable,” says Reverend Joel Tishken, part-time pastor at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Hendricks County (UUCCHC).
In the summer of 2021, Tishken participated in training through the Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education. In March 2022, he launched a monthly Animal Grief Support Group (sponsored by the UUCCHC) to provide a safe space for anyone grieving the death of a pet and people who regularly work with animals.
“In the case of disenfranchised bereavement, some people have suppressed a story for decades because in trying to manage their pain, they have had hurtful reactions,” says Tishken. “As a result, they keep smothering that pain and grief for a long time because they don’t‘I don’t feel there is a sweet place to land this story.
It is precisely for this reason that Tishken wanted to offer a support group for grieving animals.
“It is a grief that otherwise goes unanswered,” he says. “The purpose of this group is to provide pastoral service to the community you‘I won’t find anywhere else.
The idea was conceived by animal chaplain, the Reverend Russell Elleven, who trained a handful of chaplains in this area. The support group follows a small group model, which means that each participant takes turns speaking, saying what is on their heart. The rest of the participants do not respond, but simply offer a listening ear.
“The idea is simply to be a supportive and loving presence for others,” says Tishken. “This‘s so that people can speak their hearts without any judgment. You do not‘no need to muffle or qualify what you say.
Tishken notes that when it comes to animal grief, society often muted or downplayed it. As a result, the mourner is reluctant to open up.
“This‘It’s hard to be vulnerable when you know yourself‘I’m going to get hurt,” Tishken said. “In this case, people‘I don’t have to have those worries because we just thank them for sharing their hearts.
After the death of a human or pet, many people are inclined to make remarks such as: “This‘God‘s plan”, or, “They‘re at peace now.
“The problem is that if it doesn’t‘t your view of the world, it‘isn’t useful at all,” says Tishken. “Actually, it can be hurtful.”
Anyone who works with animals, such as veterinarians or those in animal shelters or humane societies, is also welcome to join the support group to help them process their work, which can be emotionally taxing. As Tishken points out, suicide rates among vets and vet techs are high.
“People often take their anxiety out on vets in ways they don’t.‘t with human doctors,” says Tishken. “People have weird expectations like getting a price reduction on a certain procedure, and if the vet doesn’t‘Disagree, they accuse the vet of not liking animals. Additionally, veterinarians see humanity at its worst when they see starving or clearly neglected animals.
Tishken, a huge animal lover himself, has 14 adopted creatures, including nine cats, four guinea pigs and a rabbit. As a minister and chaplain, he has run his fair share of human support groups during his career.
“Dealing with people when they are hurting – those skills are clearly transferable to this group,” he says. Support groups can be helpful because being among a group of people, even if they don’t share your identical situation, is healing because they can empathize in ways that others cannot.
“There is power in speaking your truth,” Tishken says.
Tishken‘s Animal Grief Support Group takes place virtually on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 7-8 p.m. For more information, email [email protected]