Stephens Funeral Home offers pet loss seminar
Stephens Funeral home, Upper Macungie, recently hosted Kathryn Jennings, founder of Day by Day Pet Caregiver Support for a pet loss and grief seminar.
Jennings said she founded Day by Day after she lost her three schnauzers, Pookie Poo in 2012, and Hallie Boo and Sallie Lou in 2013.
Jennings, certified as a pet loss professional and certified in pet loss and grief companioning, said Day by Day, a nonprofit organization, was established to assist pet owners companions on their grief journey.
“We are here to provide compassionate support for the grief that comes before, during and after the loss of a beloved pet,” she stated at the April 29 event. “We never get over grief we simply get through it.
“For those that experience real and true grief as it related to the loss of a pet, what is really happening is a loss of a relationship.”
Jennings said the human and animal bond provides fulfillment for both a human and the pet.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes the human and animal bond and says “the human-animal bond is the dynamic relationship between people and animals in that each influences the psychological and physiological state of the other.”
“Once we identify it that way, then it starts to become permissible for us to grieve for our loss,” Jennings said.
A person’s grief is shaped by the nature of the relationship, circumstances surrounding the death and the uniqueness of the individual.
“The loss can be magnified if long-term care giving was involved in caring for a pet,” Jennings stated. “Often times, people can link their pet to an important relationship or to other people in their lives, which can also magnify the loss of the pet.
“In addition to the relationship, other things that can impact one’s grief journey is the circumstance surrounding the pet’s death,”
Circumstances surrounding a pet’s death that can complicate grief is whether it was a tragic (emergency), natural (without warning) or euthanasia, a planned death.
“Not one of these is necessarily better or easier than another, so we don’t often want to compare them,” Jennings stated. “But they are all unique in and of themselves as it relates to your own personal journey that you have taken with your beloved pet.”
The grief journey is really about finding people to be present with you and support you as you move through your grief.
Emotions of grief include shock, sadness, depression, anger, guilt and regrets, confusion, physical symptoms and acceptance.
“Grief is normal. It is not a disorder, a disease or sign of weakness,” she explained. “It is an emotional physical and spiritual, necessity, the price we pay for love.
“The only cure for grief is to allow ourselves to mourn.”
Day by Day subscribes to what Dr. Alan Wolfert, Jennings’ mentor at The Center for Loss and Transition at Colorado State University, calls the companioning model.
The companioning model states “It is not about analyzing, fixing or resolving your grief. Instead it’s about having someone being totally present to you as you experience the pain of grief.”
Wolfert has what he calls the six essential needs of mourning: acknowledge the reality of the death (accepting), move toward the pain of the loss, continue the relationship with the pet who died through memory (memorialization), develop a new self-identity (finding a new normal), search for meaning (purpose to go on) and continue to receive support from others.
“It is important to move through the grief journey into healing,” Jennings said.
Several factors come into play when adopting a new pet.
These include: giving each person time to grieve, the entire family must be in agreement, and recognizing one pet cannot replace another, Jennings said.
Matthew S. Stephens, with Stephens Funeral Home, said he found one of Jennings’ brochures at the veterinarian office of his dog Sammy.
“I was very, very intrigued by what this was all about,” Stephens said. “At the same time, I happened to be reading a nonfiction book in which the main character was a pet therapist.
“I never even thought there was such a thing. But after speaking with Kathryn, I realized this is something from which our community could benefit.”
Stephens said his family is very proud of the way they take care of families who have lost a loved one and seeing the support they get from family and relatives.
“But being a pet owner who has unfortunately lost three dogs of his own, for those people that maybe are not pet people, just don’t understand what we go through when we do lose one of our best friends,” Stephens said.
Danielle McFadden of Danielsville spoke with The Press about the seminar.
“This was a profound presentation, straight from her heart,” McFadden said.
Charlene Piskula of Coplay who attended the seminar with her Certified Therapy Dog Sirius, a golden retriever with Lehigh Valley Health Network, also commented.
“I was incredibly impressed to see that Stephens Funeral Home reached out to the community to include bereavement services to local pet owners,” Piskula said. “I like the fact they are community oriented. It blew me away to see Sirius and Sammy being so professional and working the crowd.”
Day By Day offers a pet loss and grief support circle 7-8 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, 2250 N. Old Bethlehem Pike, Quakertown.
For more about Jennings and Day By Day, go to daybydaypetsupport.com or call 484-453-8210.