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Support for the Bereaved Animal Lover

Pet-loss support groups can help the healing process when we lose our most constant companions.

 My rescue cat Cloe was the second pet I’d lost suddenly to undiagnosed cancer in as many years. Still plagued by sorrow a week later, I contacted Jane Nathanson, a pet-loss counselor in the greater Boston area who hosts a support group at a local animal hospital. “Many people consider their animals to be better companions than family members,” Nathanson said, inviting me to the group. So for two Sunday afternoons, my partner and I joined eight similarly bereaved pet parents to share photos, tell stories, and soothe ourselves as Nathanson offered advice for moving on.Support groups exist for seemingly every purpose, from addiction recovery to weight-loss encouragement. Perhaps not surprising given how we often consider companion animals to be full-fledged family members, there are now pet-loss support groups in nearly every state. This wasn’t always the case. “I lost my dog in a rafting accident in ’78, and there was nothing out there in the way of pet-loss counseling,” recalls Betty Carmack, a registered nurse and pet-loss counselor in San Francisco. As she navigated her own sorrow and spoke to fr …

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