The following is an article written about a remarkable woman, Micky Golden Moore, founder of Beyond the Paw Print, whose story is a prime example of how facing one’s grief can prove not only healing for one’s self, but also can lead to major positive life changes. Her efforts bring comfort to those who struggle with “disenfranchised grief.”—Sid

May 14 • 2009 A25

It’s Not Therapy

Aspiring grief counselor helps people come together to also grieve for pets.

BUSINESS & PROFESSIONAL—entrepreneur
| by Judith Doner Berner
| Special to the Jewish News

detroitjewishnews

Micky Golden Moore: “Pet loss grief is not intended to be compared to the loss of a person. Many times, even close friends and family can be dismissive. Sometimes, the purest love is from an animal. Human relationships are fraught with complications.” Staff photo by Angie Baan

Everyone loses a loved one at some time in their lives. But few take the steps that Micky Golden Moore has to understand their grief.

After the death of her parents, the Metro Detroiter, who graduated from West Bloomfield High School and holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from Wayne State University in Detroit, entered a master’s program in hospice and palliative studies at Madonna University in Livonia. The switch from a career of communications consulting and teaching was
partly a result of the care and comfort she saw her dad, steel executive and Jewish philanthropist Louis H. Golden, receive from West Bloomfield-based Jewish Hospice & Chaplaincy Network (JHCN) when he died in 2003 from a recurrence of cancer.

It was further driven by the depression that Moore suffered when her mom, Sylvia Golden, a lifelong Hadassah member, died three years later. “She was my best friend. I knew that I had to understand what this was,” Moore says. “I’ve always turned to academia to find my answers.”

Moore, a Farmington Hills resident, graduated May 3 from what Madonna heralds as “the only university-based hospice program of its kind in the nation.” She plans a career in grief counseling.

“This program has changed my life,” she says. “I feel very passionate about the opportunity to help others journey through their grief, loss and reconciliation. “Everyone’s grief experience is unique and depends on who died, the nature of the relationship with the deceased and how the individual died. I don’t want anyone that I help to feel isolation. You walk alongside them. You bear witness as they work through the grieving process. There is no magic dust.”

Shifting Sands
Part way through her studies, Moore was prompted by the death of her two cats to begin a support group for others who had lost pets.  “Pet loss grief is not intended to be compared to the loss of a person,” she says. But when she wrote a research paper, her findings showed that pet loss is one of the forms of “disenfranchised grief.” Many times, even close friends and family can be dismissive.

“Sometimes, the purest love is from an animal,” Moore says. “Human relationships are fraught with complications.” She formed Beyond the Paw Print LLC and put together a website: www.beyondthepawprint.com. The name is based on the clay paw print that many veterinarians give clients as a remembrance of their pet.

Her bereavement group meets 7-9 p.m. the second Monday of each month at Orchard United Methodist Church, 30450 Farmington Road in Farmington Hills.

“This is not a therapy group,” Moore says. “The goal is to acknowledge and validate the unique nature of each loss.” The page-long Code of Conduct includes asking participants to avoid giving advice or comparing their loss to that of another participant. No pets are allowed. The first meeting in March drew a dozen participants. Ten people came to the second meeting, she says.

Positive Response
Kiirsti Sharp, practice manager of the Hilldale Veterinary Hospital in Southfield, attended as an observer. She saw that those who came “needed Micky’s support and the support of each other. People were hugging each other. They felt understood.”

That was true for Mikki Stein of Farmington Hills who says the sessions have helped her come to terms with the
death of a dog “whose time was not up.”

“People who aren’t animal lovers just don’t want to listen,” Stein says. So when she saw a piece about the support group in a local newspaper, “I felt it was bashert [fate, destiny].”

As Stein shared her story with those who attended, “It was the first time that I felt anybody heard me. It was so uplifting. I felt such a sense of relief.” She’ll continue to attend whenever she can, Stein says. “It’s important to listen to other people the way they listened to you.”

“It was very helpful,” seconds Joely Moss, a Farmington Hills mother of two young children. She went online to find Moore’s support group at the death of the dog that she and her husband had owned since before they had children. “It really feels good to be around people who totally get it,” she says.

The support group is free. Moore’s website also promotes two related businesses — a video pet tribute service and a training program on pet loss for veterinary clinicians.

Dr. David Whitten, DVM, who heads the Hilldale clinic, says Moore conducted a workshop for his staff and developed a grief packet, which they hand out. “We thought we already were doing a good job. She made us even a little smarter.”

On-Task Learning
Moore has earned the confidence of two who are her teachers and mentors.Paul Nguyen, Ph.D., of Karmanos Cancer Institute Hospice in Southfield guides the internship required for her degree and was at her side at the initial pet support group meetings.

“As a facilitator, Micky is very helpful,” Nguyen says. “People enjoy being there because it’s a safe place to deal
with their grief when their family members don’t understand.”

“I’m an advocate for pet loss support,” says Kelly Rhoades, Ph.D., professor and chair of Madonna’s Hospice, Palliative Care and Bereavement Studies program. “It’s relevant to end-of-life care.

“It’s not a loss that’s always validated. To some people, pets are their children. We have to meet people where they are. Micky has taken this to the program level.”

When Moore began her degree, Rhoades says, “She wanted to give back to the hospice program. One of the things I most admire about her is that when she commits to something, she goes far beyond. She wants to learn everything.

“She has a lot of compassion and understanding — and now she has the skills.”

Moore won the Karmanos Cancer Institute Crystal Award as Volunteer of the Year in April 2006 for developing a required workshop for volunteers in the institute’s speakers’ bureau. Her volunteer efforts, she says, “acknowledge and honor my parents’ memory” and “their legacy of giving.”

She credits husband Bud Moore, a financial executive at Ford Motor Company, for “supporting me through each and every single endeavor. Without him, none of this would be possible.” ■

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