Grief isn’t a burden that's meant to be taken on solo. When you are suffering after a loss, connecting with the people you love can help you feel less alone. Family members and friends can provide a support network that’s critical to your mental and emotional health, especially when experiencing intense grief after the loss of a loved one.
But people aren't the only ones who can comfort—pets can offer profound support after a loved one has died, too. Sometimes it can feel extremely difficult to be around other people during this time. Animals can provide emotional connection and solace, which can be incredibly healing during times of need.
How Animals Help Comfort
Pets are often intuitive to our emotional needs, and the patient understanding animals possess can feel just as soothing as an embrace or long conversation with a close friend. If someone experiencing loss is having trouble verbalizing their pain or reaching out for a connection, an animal companion can do wonders in providing comfort. Children experience and show grief differently than adults and can especially benefit from the warm nuzzle and furry snuggle of a dog or cat.
Therapy dogs are specially trained by certified instructors to help with people’s emotional needs. You might see these service dogs in places such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, or funeral homes. At Chapman Funerals & Cremations, we’ve seen firsthand how powerful the positive influence of therapy dogs can be. That’s why we have two on staff: Rosie and Chappy.
Rosie and Chappy
Both Rosie and Chappy have attended multiple training groups. Rosie has earned her Canine Good Citizen certification and is a certified therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International of Cape Cod #253. Through this organization, Rosie also participates in weekly visits to elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and nursing homes.
Rosie and Chappy have extensive experience helping people cope with grief after loss. While funerals are crucial to grieving a death, and are attended by familiar faces, they aren’t easy to be at. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs says therapy dogs can lower anxiety, depression, and stress by increasing the levels of serotonin and dopamine in our brains. At Chapman, we regularly include Rosie and Chappy in funeral services to assist bereaved families.
Attending to Your Needs
Rosie and Chappy can attend memorial services, wakes, and funerals—whatever service the family expresses a need for them. During the service, our handlers watch closely while Rosie and Chappy visit with the guests. The handlers are careful to ensure everyone is accepting of the dogs’ companionship at the ceremony or reception.
Rosie or Chappy will walk around the room and let guests pet them and interact with them. They tend to spend more time with those who are outwardly expressing their grief. The dogs are also wonderful at helping calm small children who may be feeling restless.
Once they are done making the rounds, our dogs will lie down until someone calls them again. When the service begins, the dogs are usually taken to another room to avoid any distraction, unless the family prefers otherwise.
Attending the initial arrangement conference is also a very emotional time for families. This occurs shortly after the death of their loved one, and usually the first time they’ve been to the funeral home. It is a time when the family is confronting the reality of their loss.
Our support dogs can be a welcome distraction for people at this meeting. Rosie and Chappy help ease some of the tension in the room. The presence of our dogs and their physical touch can be extremely calming.
Support for Life
Humans and dogs have comforted one another since prehistory. Canines have lain at their owners’ caskets, nuzzled their heads on the laps of the mourning, and provided unwavering love to those who are experiencing unspeakable loss.
Rosie and Chappy will be here to help ease the burden of grief when the day comes when you’ll have to say goodbye to a love of your own, as will the rest of the Chapman Funerals & Cremations staff. If you’d like to learn more about including one of our support dogs at a funeral service or visitation, call us at any one of our locations in Cape Cod or the South Shore areas.