People can say some very insensitive things without thinking or because they don’t understand. Have you ever heard, “You need to get over it,” “it’s just a dog.” Or “it’s just a cat?” Well, not true. Wrong.
Many people consider their dog, cat, horse, or other pet to be part of the family and grieve deeply when that pet dies. We get very attached to our pets. They are affectionate, good company, funny, even entertaining, empathetic, soothing to have around. We love them. So when they die, it’s awful.
My sister lost two sweet dogs in a single year, last year. So sad and that created a big void in daily life. Photo below of her darling dog Stella. The other dog who died was a little black and white dog, Tommy. Eventually she got another puppy, Vinny. Not to “replace” the others but just to bring a dog back in the home, and to rescue a darling from the animal shelter. So look at the shelters, there are so many nice ones needing a home.
Remember, we need to take care of our pets. Play with them, take them on walks, feed them, fresh water, give them affection. They follow us around and want attention. And so they help make the home a welcoming and pleasant place.
Even if you are home alone, you are never alone because your pets are there. And also pets are very good for children—fun and company, and teach kids responsibility. And family members who visit always enjoy giving a few pets.
So when your relative or friend loses a pet, be aware they are grieving, and may even have long term grief. That’s the kind of grief that doesn’t go away. It remains for years and years. Please don’t say those awful cliches, just say you are sorry and understand they are sad.
So, it is NOT “just a dog,” “just a cat.” He/she is a buddy who died and is gone. For many it’s like a family member who is gone, and they miss their buddy. Just being aware of this may help your friend or family member.
Susan Anderson-Khleif has a Ph.D in Family Sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College, and is a retired Motorola Executive. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. See her blog on grief and healing at longtermgrief.tumblr.com