The grief we feel is testament to the love we shared. This sentiment is so true. Without love, we wouldn't grieve and without the knowledge of the impending end of life, we wouldn't love as profoundly as we do.
That being said, is there an example of unconditional love as powerful as that between a pet and its owner? Non-verbal, loyal, uncomplicated, devoted, at its simplest form - love. The grief when they pass is earth shattering and with 35% of society not being pet owners, it's easy to see why this grief is misunderstood or invalidated.
My guest on this week's episode of The Silva Lining, Coleen Ellis, is an expert on this topic. A chance encounter with a pet parent facing the death of her pet was a defining moment for Coleen in 1998. It was the beginning of her vision of how to best meet the needs of pet parents in their desire to mourn, memorialize and pay tribute to their beloved pets when they die. In 2004, the experience of the death of her dog, Mico, guided her in starting the nation’s first stand-alone pet’s-only funeral home. Soon, publications such as Kates-Boylston’s Pet Loss Insider deemed her the “most well known pet funeral director” and a true “pet loss pioneer.”
In 2009, Coleen founded Two Hearts Pet Loss Center, to guide people who wish to provide meaningful pet death care services in their communities, as well to be an educational resource in the pet grief discipline. In 2009, she received the first Death and Grief Studies Certification specializing in Pet Loss Companioning by Dr. Alan Wolfelt as well as releasing her first book, Pet Parents: A Journey Through Unconditional Love and Grief. She is also Certified in Thanatology and is a Certified Pet Loss Professional.
By 2014, Coleen was ready to take her vision to a new level. Joining Nick Padlo as managing partner and Chief Marketing Officer, they formed an acquisition company whose mission is to standardize and raise the service levels of the pet loss industry. The Pet Loss Center strives to be the nation’s premier pet loss service, elevating the experiential component of pet loss and grief care across the country.
Coleen is a sought-after speaker on the topics of pet loss and grief. Through her delivery style, pet care professionals learn a variety of techniques immediately applicable to implement on how to companion families in their grief journey. Furthermore, her talks to pet parents give them the permission they need to not only grieve but mourn the loss of their beloved pet.
Coleen is currently the co-chair and founder of the Pet Loss Professionals Alliance and past president of the International Association of Animal Hospice and Palliative Care. She is a native of Kansas where she graduated from Fort Hays State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing.
We had a great discussion about pet loss grief, touching upon the "well intentioned" support that comes from those who don't understand; the importance of including children who are grieving their pets and the many "teaching moments" that are presented; as well as some beautifully creative memorialization ideas for honoring the lives of your beloved pets.
The importance of helping survivors pets with their grief was also a topic we discussed. It isn't as common logistically that the other pets in the household are able to come to the hospital when another pet passes away in order to realize that they have passed. Coleen brought up that since most animals process situations through their sense of smell, she has recommended that after the pet passes away, to have a clipping of fur cut from the pet to be brought home to the surviving animals. This way, they can actually smell and process that their fellow pet has passed away, rather than go through the anxiety, depression and behavioral problems that come with the fact the the pet in their lives has just vanished.
Coleen is such an inspiration for education in this field and it was an honor to speak with her. I look forward to learning more from her in the future and would love to help anyone locally find out about options available for their pets here. In my research, I was really impressed with what Angel View Pet Cemetery and Crematory in Middleboro has to offer. CLICK HERE to visit their website for more information.
The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor, St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union. We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at www.stanthonyofpaduafcu.com