UVS Animal Companion Bereavement Group

group logoBeginnings of the group

The Upstate Veterinary Specialties Animal Companion Bereavement Group began as an off-shoot of a joint effort to address the potential for “compassion fatigue” among veterinary staff.   The topic is especially important for those whose technical skills and compassion are called upon every moment at the hospital.   An in-service staff training for UVS on recognizing and addressing compassion fatigue was led by Nancy Saxton-Lopez, LCSW, DCSW in 2011.   Among the participants of this training were Estelle Giles-Monroe, MSW, LCSW-R and UVS Human Resources Manager Kristin Kesnowski.

After the 2011 UVS staff in-service focused on the need for UVS veterinary professionals to take good care of themselves, it became clear that reaching out to pet owners dealing with loss was a natural extension of this training. Dr. Aron Wey, UVS practice owner, agreed that such a resource was needed. The resulting support group has held monthly meetings ever since 2012. Invitations to the group are routinely sent by UVS to clients who have recently lost a pet.

Estelle Giles-Monroe, MSW, LCSW-R

Estelle Giles-Monroe, MSW, LCSW-R

Bereavement group leadership

Estelle Giles-Monroe’s general practice focus is on individuals, couples, teens, and families. She specializes in grief and loss and her focus has expanded to include work with people with terminal illnesses. Estelle has also experienced the loss of a special canine friend, and knows first-hand what group members struggle with. The pain is real and although it evolves over time it doesn’t go away. Estelle encourages individuals working though the grief process to honor and experience the pain, but not allow it to distort them. When someone has loved a pet, that person has the capacity to love a pet again.

Group meetings and structure

The Animal Companion Bereavement Group generally meets the first Thursday of the month at the Capital District Behavioral Health offices in Latham. Other than group leader Estelle and her canine companion “Merry”, generally around a dozen caring individuals attend the group sessions. Pet-parents, their friends or neighbors are welcome to join the meetings. The compassionate, close-knit group offers a safe space to reflect on their companions, share pictures or stories. Group members provide support and understanding as they may have experienced similar reactions, feelings and stigmas about pet loss.

More information on the UVS Animal Companion Bereavement Group can be found on the UVS website.  Additional web resources regarding pet loss can be found on the UVS bereavement group website or on the Animal Protective Foundation website.