Those who are grieving the loss of a pet are invited to participate in a support group aimed at helping to cope with that loss.
Billings Animal Rescue Kare, a nonprofit animal shelter, has organized a pet grief support group to lend support to people who are grieving or anticipating the loss of a companion animal.
Sandy Price, executive director of BARK, said the loss of a pet can be a traumatic event.
"For many, our pets are like family members and we grieve their loss like we would with family members."
The group met for the first time Thursday. They shared photos, stories and memories of their pets. And they shared their support and understanding.
Christine Simpson, a volunteer member for BARK, said many people are embarrassed by their own grief. They don't want to share with others who may react without compassion by saying "It's only a dog ... a cat, crazy cat lady," she said.
Simpson lost her 16-year-old Siamese-mix cat Merlin to cancer recently. Merlin was just a kitten when she rescued him.
"I rescued him, and he rescued me several times," Simpson said.
BARK volunteer Jacque Michael said the support group is great because everyone understands the loss she has experienced.
"There are no judgments here," Michael said. "It's a safe circle of kindred spirits."
The Pet-Grief Support Group meetings are non-denominational and free to attend. The group will meet on the first Thursday of each month starting at 7 p.m.
Minister Richard Stone of Unity Church of Christianity will lead the groups. BARK has also arranged for Dr. Amy Lamm, of Billings Vet-To-Go, to attend some meetings to support people who are struggling with guilt associated with euthanizing their pets.
For more information, call 406-839-9244 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.