Certified Therapy Dogs offers Grief Counseling to Those in Mourning

For those who have recently lost a loved one or are going through times of grief, a dog can be a comforting presence as a means of grief counseling.

Lulu, an adorable goldendoodle, is a “staff member” at Ballard-Durand Funeral & Cremation Services. Lulu is a certified therapy dog and attends funerals at Ballard-Durand serving as a “comfort companion” for those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

“She’s such an affectionate dog and such a social dog. Just petting her is a subtle distraction from the pain these people are going through,” Matthew Fiorillo, Lulu’s owner and president of the funeral and cremation services, told The Huffington Post. “Such a subtle distraction is a comforting thing for families.”

Fiorillo explained that Lulu travels between the two funeral homes that the family owns in New York and assists the mourning family in any way that they request. In some cases, Lulu will greet people at the door, move throughout the guests, or be stationary in a particular area of the room for people to come up and visit when they feel the urge.

Sometimes Lulu’s presence leaves a lasting impression on those who have been around the lovable goldendoodle.

“People come back to the funeral home after the services, weeks later, sometimes months later, and say, ‘Is Lulu here? Can I come visit?’” Fiorillo said. “She connects with people on a different level than we can. … There’s that unconditional love and support from her.”

But, the final decision to have Lulu attend the funeral is always up to the family and when she is present it is always under the strict conditions that are set by the familes.

Although, Fiorillo says that families request to have the dog present 90 percent of the time.

At the end of the day, Lulu’s presence is only uplifting to those attending the funerals.

“The atmosphere in the funeral home very often gets really heavy for a lot of my staff and myself when we deal with the day-to-day interactions with families who are suffering,” Fiorillo said. “Lulu provides us with our own comfort in a way. It’s great to watch the funeral directors who work for me roll around in their suits and ties. She really changes the atmosphere.”

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