SOUTHINGTON - The loss of a beloved pet can be heartbreaking, like losing a member of the family.
To help pet owners to cope with that grief, Southington Public Library will host a series of free programs starting today with the Southington Community Pet Loss Support (COPES) support group.
The support group will meet May 16, June 20 and July 11 at the library at 255 Main St. from 7 to 8 p.m., with refreshments served starting at 6:30 p.m.
This program will offer people the chance to share different experiences and perspectives in a supportive group setting.
Guests will be invited to bring a photo of their pet and a story to share with the group. Reverend Victoria Triano, a certified counselor, will also attend the meeting to give her support.
“I’m honored to be there to help and guide them in any way I can,” said Triano. “I think this is a great opportunity to help people talk about the deaths of their pets and receive the support they need. More and more research is finding that people go through the same stages of depression as when they lose a family member when a pet dies.”
Jeanne Chmielewski, program coordinator at the library, said she was approached to host the program at the library which would also help collect food donations.
Sue Smayda, library director, said that she was glad to help.
“A lot of people in tough economic straits have pets but it is harder to get people to donate pet food,” said Smayda.
Smayda said that, in some cases, the loss of a pet who is a constant companion can have just as much of an emotional impact as the loss of a family member.
“I remember when I was 6 or 7 I had a family cat named Fluffy who got into a horrible fight and my parents took him to the vet to have him put down,” said Smayda. “I didn’t realize until months later that he wasn’t coming back from the vet.
“The loss of a pet can be different than losing a person because we often choose to euthanize our pets to spare them pain. While I am fully in support of this it makes it even more difficult to explain the situation to young people.”
Smayda also encouraged those with older pets to come to the support group. The program can help you prepare yourself, stated Smayda.
“Many pets, such as cats, can live for as many as 20 years and it can be hard to let go,” Smayda said. “I remember when my dog died I went to speak to my minister, who told me that I shouldn’t think it was silly to seek support after the loss of a pet and that ‘love is love.’”
“As much as this is something that people don’t want to think about, learning to cope with loss is an important part of living,” said Chmielewski.
Southington COPES is a community support group that was started by volunteers from the surrounding veterinary community and Southington Community Services to provide support to those grieving over the loss of a pet. The group is an opportunity to work through a beloved pet’s death with a supportive community of pet lovers.
Pet food donations are encouraged and will be given to the Southington Pet Pantry in the name of a deceased pet.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.