There is no pain that can match the pain of losing a loved one. And while funerals can be very cathartic and offer mourners a way to express their grief and celebrate their loved one’s life, they can also be overwhelming.
That’s why some funeral homes are now starting to offer mourners a very special option: therapy dogs.
For many years, therapy dogs have been used with great success in hospitals and nursing homes. Therapy animals have been shown to lower stress, assist in pain relief, and reduce depression. Therapy dogs have even been used at disaster relief zones, and they were invaluable in helping the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as well as helping returning veterans struggling with PTSD.
Now, funeral homes are beginning to embrace the trend of therapy dogs by inviting specially-trained dogs to funerals (with the mourners’ permission, of course). Judd is one such grief therapy dog, and he works at Armes-Hunt Funeral Home. He’s a Golden Retriever, and is a registered and certified grief therapy dog.
As covered by The Today Show, Judd recently comforted an 11-year-old boy who lost a friend to a tragic accident. As the child sat alone before his friend’s casket, Judd approached the boy and laid a paw on his leg. The comforting action allowed the young child to release his tears, and Judd simply laid his head in the boy’s lap while he cried.
Mourners across the country have found similar comfort from furry friends. The National Funeral Directors Association says that the number of therapy dogs in funeral homes has increased in recent years, and it’s likely this trend will continue. Their recent survey showed that more than half of respondents would be interested in having a therapy dog at a funeral or memorial service.
Therapy dogs are invited at the mourners’ request, and they can attend everything from the meeting required to set up funeral arrangements to the wake to the funeral itself. These specially-trained animals move through the room, identifying where they are needed and offering comfort where they can. Funeral directors keep a close eye on the animals to ensure they do not become overwhelmed, and to make sure that the mourners are comfortable with the animal being present.
Would you be okay with a therapy dog at a funeral? Do you think it would bring comfort and healing, or do you think it would be a distraction?