Samantha Osmer came to study Thanatology at Hood curious about grief — particularly from pet loss — wanting to understand why it can be so painful and so difficult to find guidance for navigating the grief one feels when a pet dies.
At graduation in May 2015, she received the Donna Mowry ’98, M.A. ’07 Thanatology Award for 2015. This monetary award is given annually to a female Thanatology graduate student who makes a significant contribution to the field, through research, practice, volunteerism, or the like.
At the same time she was studying at Hood, Samantha completed the Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement’s counseling course. She also volunteered in the emergency department at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School’s small animal hospital . There, she saw first hand the difficulty pet owners have grappling with both the emotional and financial burdens that come with a pet’s health crisis.
As Samantha progressed through her courses she learned that the emotional processes experienced in pet loss are remarkably similar to those that result from the death of a close human friend or family member. A pivotal assignment for Samantha was her final paper for the Professional Orientation in Thanatology course for which she researched and wrote about the emergence of veterinary hospice, an option not yet widely available but one that can provide both animals and their people with the supports they need. Paper submitted, Samantha then headed for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, where she took part in a course to provide coping strategies for those who work in animal rescue.
Samantha is now working with her local Bucks County, Pennsylvania, emergency veterinary hospital to provide crisis support and grief counseling on a volunteer basis. She is also an active member of Death Cafe in Philadelphia that she plans soon to branch out.