Northeast Kingdom support group helps people mourn pet loss

For many people, pets are part of the family. And losing one can be really hard.
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 5:04 AM EDT
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ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - For many people, pets are part of the family, and losing one can be really hard. Rev. Linda Moore, a health care worker and trained interfaith chaplain, had the idea to create a pet loss support group for Vermonters.

Loss might be a part of life, but Moore says she wants to make the grief of losing a pet easier on Vermonters.

“I just want people to be able to come and share their stories. Because it’s healing, there’s a healing and sharing of a story. It’s if we keep it just to ourselves, it’s hard to heal,” she said.

Moore has been an animal lover her entire life and has experienced loss on multiple occasions over the years. Abiding Ties was born after Moore reflected on her experience of having her cat euthanized while she was in Canada for school, unable to make it back to Vermont. She said sharing her feelings with those around her helped a great deal.

“Repeated losses are really hard on a body, on a mind and on a spirit. And if folks can talk about it, I think that’s important,” said Moore.

Despite Moore’s experience as a reverend, she says the group has no religious affiliation and all are welcome. She says there aren’t in-person groups like this in the Northeast Kingdom, and it’s not easy to find any in the state, either.

“This is a gap in care that we haven’t even thought of and this is amazing,” said Moore.

Those who have experienced pet loss, like Cherry Hebert, say the service is needed.

“Four and a half years ago, I lost a little dog in a very traumatic way. And at the time, there was no support for this anywhere. I was definitely alone in my grief,” said Hebert.

The group isn’t just for pet loss. Moore says folks who have farm animals are welcome, and even people who haven’t lost a pet yet. This is called anticipatory grief.

“Because I have so many older dogs -- and I have had so many -- I live in a perpetual state of that anticipatory grief,” said Hebert.

Abiding Ties, Moore says, is just getting started. A long-term goal is to set up a support group for veterinarians and create a benevolent fund to pay for veterinary experiences for those in need.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful for the community to have a place to grieve like that,” said Hebert.

The group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury.