Pet Loss Support Group Allows Owners to Grieve

Society may minimize the loss of a pet, but Gulfside Regional Hospice is looking to raise awareness.

It’s socially acceptable to grieve over the loss of your grandmother, your father, your spouse and others close to you.

But what about the death of a pet? Is it OK to grieve then? 

Oftentimes, society’s answer is no, said Debbie LaBouef, a Gulfside Regional Hospice bereavement counselor.

“It’s almost like you don’t talk about your (deceased) pet because people minimize it,” she said. “They don’t value that companionship.”

Now there is a place where grieving pet owners can go to open up about the loss and not feel judged, however. LaBouef leads a Pet Loss Support Group that meets every other Friday at 2 p.m. at Gulfside’s Lutz Thrift Shoppe, 1930 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. in the Harbour Village Shopping Plaza. The next date is June 21.

The group was launched in April and grievers are free to share photos and memories. LaBouef said widows and widowers can take the death of a pet especially hard. 

“It’s one last thing that reminds them of their spouse,” LaBouef said, adding the loss can lead to tears that rival the number shed at the spouse’s time of death. “They don’t understand. They say, ‘Why am I crying more? I loved my husband or my wife.’”

LaBouef said some grievers feel ashamed or as if they’re “going crazy” because they’re so saddened by a pet’s passing. But it’s OK to be feeling such a way, LaBouef said.  

“No one is going to roll their eyes,” she said.

How do you get over the death of a beloved pet? Like a widow, LaBouef said, you should not dive into a new relationship right away.

“Don’t go to the pet store and replace it,” she said. “Allow your heart to heal and give yourself some time.”

For more information about the support group, call Debbie LaBouef at 727-457-7722.

How much should owners grieve over the loss of a pet? Does our society minize the death? Tell us in the comments section below. 


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