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Easing the pain of goodbye

07 June 2019, at 9:30am

Dealing with bereavement is a difficult part of the job, but directing owners to support services can help them through the process

Witnessing the raw pain of a 12-year-old family friend losing both of her rabbits to a strain of RHVD this weekend brought home the impact that the death of a much-loved pet has on the owner.

Quite rightly, the inevitable loss of pets that have become such beloved friends and family members is the very hardest part of sharing your life with animals. And working in practice – often being there at the end of that partnership – puts veterinary professionals in the unique position to make a difference.

One of our policyholders shared with us her first experience of euthanasia with her cat, Desmond. While the family were devastated at the loss of their 17-year-old pet, the way that the euthanasia was handled made a profound difference to the experience of those final moments together:

“Despite the horrendousness of the occasion, the ethos of the practice made the world of difference to me, my husband and our lovely old cat. We were shown to a snug little room with sofas and a rug, where we were all able to relax, have a final cuddle and say goodbye, in total peace and in our own time.“When I think back to saying goodbye to Desmond, my memories feel very warm and content, and I know that we couldn’t have been in a more relaxing and kinder environment for him.

Of course, nothing can take the pain of losing a pet away, but, as we see here, to handle the moment in a gentle, kind and understanding manner can make a difference. It can leave the owner with warmer memories of those final moments, helping them to reflect more easily on the happy times they spent with their pet.

Like many bereavements, it can often be the times after the death that are the hardest. As the owner returns to an empty house, with no wagging tail or purring cat to greet them, moving forward with life can take specialist help.

At Agria, we have teamed up with Blue Cross to help owners easily access their Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS). The service is run by fully trained volunteers, who all have first-hand experience of losing a pet. Through telephone and email, they provide vital emotional support and practical information to those struggling to cope with the loss of any type of pet.

PBSS has helped thousands of pet owners since launching in 1994. Tessa struggled to cope with the loss of her pet: “I am not a lonely person but felt isolated from life in general.” Tessa’s vet gave her the PBSS number. “There was no one else with whom I could share the terrible emotional pain I was in,” she says. “No one but the kind voice on the line to whom I could talk freely without fear of dismissal.” Deciding she could use her experience to help others, Tessa is now a pet bereavement support volunteer herself.

As well as our links to PBSS, Agria’s claims team consists of qualified veterinary nurses who all understand just how crucial it is to take the time that’s needed for a bereaved owner. We treat communications with grieving owners with the greatest of empathy and do everything we can to help. One of our recent Trustpilot reviews demonstrates how the smallest of gestures can make a difference:

“I would highly recommend this company to anyone. Lovely people to deal with, prompt payment – cannot fault them. Sadly, I have just lost my pet, but I would not hesitate to use them in the future. I have received the most lovely condolence card with a hand-written message, which means such a lot at such a sad time.

”It’s sadly so common for grieving owners to feel that they have to carry on as normal, as “it was only a pet”. Never underestimate the little things that can make a difference at this time. From giving owners time and space to say goodbye, to not making them walk through a busy reception area afterwards, to telling them about the support that’s there, can really help a bereaved owner in their darkest moments – and make it easier for them to take their first steps to moving forward.

For your clients who have experienced a bereavement, the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service can help. The service is available on 0800 096 6606 and open from 8.30am to 8.30pm every day. Calls are free from landlines and mobiles.

Find out more about Agria Life – our free practice support programme that offers both regulated and non-regulated insurance solutions here.