Saskatoon support group helping those coping with the loss of a pet

Click to play video: 'Group in Saskatoon supports owners who have lost their pet' Group in Saskatoon supports owners who have lost their pet
WATCH ABOVE: The Pet Loss Support Group in Saskatoon gives people who have lost a pet a place to talk, share, cry, and be with others who understand and love their pets. – Jan 10, 2019

21 years ago Bev Ashwin said goodbye to her very first dog, Mocha.

“[He] was my best friend, my buddy, my confidant,” said Ashwin. “It was the worst. I was off work for three weeks and I needed the support.”
Bev Ashwin’s late dog, Mocha. Nicole Stillger / Global News

Heartbroken, she decided to go to a Pet Loss Support Group meeting.

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READ MORE: Heartbreaking photo shows dog standing at casket to say goodbye to owner

“It was the best thing that ever happened to me, so I just started volunteering,” Ashwin said. “I saw that I could help people by sharing my experiences.”

Now she facilitates the group meetings twice a month, helping other people going through what she experienced, and would go through many times over.

“I’ve lost five dogs – I’ve got five urns at home,” she said.

“I understand exactly where these people have come from. I know what they are going through.”

Ashwin said often those grieving the loss of a pet just don’t have the support they need.

“They don’t have anybody that understands – people just say, ‘get another pet.'”

READ MORE: Whistler pet owner warns of household dangers after French bulldog suffocates on common item

Jackie Lohman started going to the support group about a year ago after losing her yellow lab, Tucker.

“He was in my life for almost 15 years. He meant everything to me – he was my baby,” said Lohman. “He was always there for support, cuddles, love.”

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Jackie Lohman and her late dog, Tucker. Courtesy: Jackie Lohman
Tucker the yellow lab. Courtesy: Jackie Lohman
Tucker the yellow lab. Courtesy: Jackie Lohman
Jackie Lohman and her late dog, Tucker. Courtesy: Jackie Lohman

“No one quite understood the level of love depth I had for my dog, so when I lost him just that emptiness I felt wasn’t quite being filled from those closest around me.”

She says the support group saved her during a devastating time and sharing helped most in the healing process.

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“All the grief I was going through, the pain, it was really hard opening up like that, but I just felt comfortable,” she said. “It felt natural being there and just being with like-minded people.”

Bev Ashwin recommends writing a journal as a way to cope with the loss of a pet. Nicole Stillger / Global News

Whether it’s chatting one-on-one or in a group, it’s ultimately about helping others recognize they’re not alone in their grief.

“Losing a pet hurts just as much as losing a person in your life and that’s why this group is so important,” Lohman said.  “These people get it.”

During the bi-monthly gatherings Ashwin gives people tools for coping. She also started a Facebook group as a way to reach out.

“I have scrapbooks and handouts that I can give them,” said Ashwin. “Things that I’ve done to get through – lighting candles or journaling.”

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“Our pets are part of the family – they are important,” Ashwin added. “Grieving a pet is normal.”

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