How to Support Pet Owners In Grief
One of the main complaints I get from pet owners when they lose a pet is that the people around them “don’t understand” how much their pet meant to them. It is extremely hard to know exactly what to say to someone who has lost a pet. Some people even say things that inadvertently cause more pain, like “It’s only a pet.” or minimizing the loss by saying, “You can just get another one.”
Compassionate Gestures for Pet Loss
Here are some suggestions to support someone who is grieving the loss of a pet, without minimizing or negating their experience.
- Tell them that you are there for them should they need you. When someone is going through the grief process, keep in mind that it is very individual. Some people want to be left alone; others feel the need to have people around. It can be hard to recognize what we really need when we are processing deep emotions. If you can be there, say so. If it is inconvenient for you, don’t make any promises you can’t keep.
- Don’t pretend to know how they feel. As an empathic medium, I am often surprised by the emotions that people have. We never know how much loss and grief someone is carrying. Some grief is compounded by multiple losses. Ask your friend how they feel and take the time to actually listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is to make sure they are heard. If they don’t feel like sharing, that’s okay too. State number one again and let them know they don’t have to go through the grief alone.
- Acknowledge the deep bond they shared with their pet. It might not be apparent to non-pet owners, but our pets share our lives in deep intimate ways. Many sleep in our beds, listen to our problems, and share our joys. We travel with them, worry about their health, laugh at their antics. Tell them it makes sense the loss is leaving a big hole in their lives. That may help them open up and talk about their grief since you know the relationship is important, and it is safe to talk about.
- Bring up a happy memory that you have of your friend and their pet. A loving story reminds them of how magical their pet was and that they still have amazing memories of their life together. One of the things the Angels always remind me to say is “the love never dies.” Also, by bringing the memories, they realize that other people loved the pet too.
- Ask them if they have eaten recently. This is something that I do when I grieve, I quit eating because I lose my appetite and don’t have the energy to prepare something to cook. I find myself forcing yogurt smoothies down my throat and other no cooking solutions to get nutrition. Even though when I have been in grief, I have lost a ton of weight, my friends never pick up on the fact that I do this. It is important to check in with someone in a matter of fact, no nonsense manner. I remember when I was eight and my grandmother died. I was shocked at all the food neighbors and friends brought to the house. My mom didn’t cook for weeks. This is a tradition that should be continued! It’s good to know basic needs are still being met. Be a great friend and check in, then bring food and company if they want it. While you’re at it, ask how they are sleeping, and taking care of themselves. Ask if there is anything you can do to help them with their workload or responsibilities.
- Remind them that their pet would never want them to feel guilty about the way the death was handled. Many clients I talk to have horrendous guilt about the way their pet’s life ended. They feel like they put them down too soon, or that they let the disease go too far so their pet suffered before they died. Sometimes they didn’t have the money, or it wasn’t feasible to continue the pet’s life (for example a horse that is terminally lame- keeping them alive results in more suffering). Guilt is a useless emotion. I have never once talked to a pet on the other side that blamed their human for the way they passed.
- Check in with them on a regular basis until you feel sure they are okay. Grief doesn’t come all at once. The first time I went to the grocery store and didn’t buy food for my dog Lucie (who had died the week before) I had a full blown breakdown, sobbing in the aisles. Most pet owners have done many activities with their pets and now are facing those events alone. The first time back to the park, a familiar walk, or an adoption anniversary can all be problematic.
Send them a thoughtful card with a handwritten note or a sympathy gift in memory of their pet. At Pet Perennials, we know the importance of letting someone whose lost their beloved pet know that you care. Many of the items here, like our Memorial Wind Chimes, will help your friend remember their pet for the foreseeable future.
Ann Hoff is a well-known Animal Communicator, Intuitive Medium, and a regular contributor to our FB Group “I Am not Crazy Because I Talk to Animals” and leads a monthly Zoom call with members wishing to chat with a pet, or simply ask Ann a question. This month's content addresses the earthly lessons we learn through loss.
Know someone experiencing loss? Help heal a broken heart by letting them know you care. PetPerennials.com offers unique and thoughtful gifts that remember the love shared between the pet and his "hooman".
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