Books to Help Families When a Pet Dies

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“But it was just a pet, not a human.”

If you love animals, you’ve heard someone say this—usually in an attempt to comfort you when a beloved animal companion has died. But grief is far larger than most of us like to admit. Long after our co-workers and neighbors have moved on with their lives, grief lingers. Always, the first year is a trial. Anniversaries summon memories. That’s true for the humans we’ve loved and lost—and it’s true for our animal friends as well. But, there’s help—and today we’re sharing that help in the form of 3 books.

This week, we’re publishing stories about the spiritual side of our relationships with animals:

‘Remembering My Pet:
A Kid’s Own Spiritual Workbook for When a Pet Dies’

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1015_Remembering_My_Pet_Spiritual_Workbook.jpgAssuming you’re an adult thinking about this book for a youngster you love, you’ll want to know that this large-format book was produced by gifted writers who know their stuff. Dr. Nechama Liss-Levinson is a psychologist who has written extensively about the impact of death and grieving on children. The Rev. Molly Phinney Baskette is a pastor in Massachusetts and has a specialty in working with children. Lynn L. Caruso is a writer, educator, wildlife activist, a mother of three and in her spare time manages to maintain her own website.

As a parent with grown children, I wish that our family had found something like this workbook years ago. Think of it as a cross between a scrapbook and a guide to resources for parents. You can open up this book and immediately start pasting in photos of your animal friend—and jotting down stories to remember. However, this is more than a memory book. It coaches parents to help with many of the big questions that linger after a non-human member of the family is gone. The section on whether our pets go to heaven, for example, outlines for parents a range of common beliefs—then suggests ways to share your own family’s specific belief with your child.

It’s a book that we recommend for teachers, ministers, parents, adult care-givers before an animal has died—so you’ve got a grasp of what’s possible in working through the grief. Skylight Paths, the publisher, has a book page about Remembering My Pet, where you also can order a copy.

Meet Journalist, Follower of St. Francis and Animal Lover Father Jack Wintz

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1015_Will_I_See_My_Dog_in_Heaven_Jack_Wintz.jpgWe’ve encountered many religious people who are heartbroken when their animal companions die, because they’ve been told that animals can’t get into heaven—despite lots of Hollywood movies that depict paradise with our pets. That’s also despite lots of theology by giants like St. Francis and later John Wesley, founder of Methodism, arguing that animals most certainly will be part of the heavenly realm. (Read Part 4 in this week’s series, our interview with Laura Hobgood-Oster, for more on that subject.)

If you believe there’s heavenly hope for animals—then you really should meet a spiritual ally: Father Jack Wintz. He has become one of America’s best-loved voices on this theme from a traditional religious point of view. For years, he was editor of St. Anthony Messenger, a magazine that many Catholic families love to read for its positive approach to news and its up-beat coverage of spirituality. The Messenger, first published in 1893, now produces the American Catholic dot Org website. That website is full of great features like “Saint of the Day,” and ReadTheSpirit has often recommended the site to our own readers. Wintz still regularly writes for the publication.

But Wintz has developed a specialty in writing about animals—perhaps not a surprising leap for a Franciscan—and we highly recommend two of his books.

Will I See My Dog In Heaven? (available from Amazon) is a great book for adults, even though it also talks about children’s experience of grief. Wintz is grounded in his Franciscan spirituality and writes, “Some 30 years ago I came to the conclusion, which I’ve never abandoned, that Francis came to see that all creatures form one family of creation.” (By the way, Protestant readers, that’s the same basic conclusion John Wesley reached as well in writing his famous sermon about animals in God’s creation.) We highly recommend this 2009 book for all adults wondering about their relationships to animals—but it’s especially good for small-group discussion and even in “Bible study classes,” because Wintz spends a lot of time exploring scripture.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1015_I_Will_See_You_in_Heaven_Jack_Wintz.jpgI Will See You in Heaven (also available from Amazon) is the 2010 sequel to Jack’s earlier book and, of course, you can see that the earlier question now becomes a firm affirmation in the title to this second book. This volume is a “gift book,” shorter and decorated with sketches of animals throughout the book. While the first book was an inspirational manifesto—laying out Jack’s arguments and approach to scripture—this new book is a celebration of these ideas. Jack recaps many of the same themes here in shorter fashion. There’s also a careful attention here to including prayers and blessings that readers will want to read—and read again and again over the years. For small-group study or for a good chance to grapple with these issues yourself, choose the first book. For a quick reference—or simply to give a friend—choose this second volume. Or, better yet: Have both on your shelf and freely give away the second book when the need arises in your circle of friends!

Come back tomorrow for more great recommendations on media about our love of animals.

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(Originally published at readthespirit.com)

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