By Dr. Bethany Hsia, Co-founder of CodaPet
Losing a pet can be an incredibly difficult and emotional experience. Pets are often considered members of the family, and the loss can be just as devastating as losing a human loved one. Grieving is an important and emotionally necessary part of processing loss. When someone you know loses a pet, it can be challenging to know what to say or do to offer comfort and support. In this article, we will discuss some things you can say (and some you shouldn’t) when someone loses a pet.
1. Acknowledge Their Loss
The first and simplest thing is to acknowledge their loss. Losing a pet can be a very lonely experience, and simple phrases like “I’m so sorry for your loss” and “I know how much Fluffy meant to you” can show the bereaved that their pain is valid and that their feelings matter.
2. Share Memories
Sharing memories of the departed pet is another way to offer comfort and support. Ask the bereaved about their favorite memories with their pet; or if you knew their pet well you can share some of your own memories. This can help them savor the good times as well as help them feel less isolated in their grief.
3. Offer Practical Support
Offering practical support is a way of turning words of sympathy into action. These acts of support can vary from bringing over a hot meal, arranging pet cremation or memorial service or helping take care of the bereaved person’s other pets. There are so many ways you can offer practical support but the grieving person may not know what help to ask for. So asking them if you can help in specific ways is a good start: “I’m going to make a double portion of dinner tomorrow, can I bring you some?”
4. Avoid Clichés
It’s important to avoid clichés like “they’re in a better place” or “they’re no longer suffering.” While these statements may be well-intentioned, they can come across as dismissive and insensitive. When in doubt, it is better to listen than to speak.
5. Be Patient
Grieving is a process, and everyone experiences it differently. The process doesn’t neatly move from one step to another, people can experience the stages in different orders, intensities, durations, and a number of times. Be patient with your friend or loved one and let them grieve in their own way and in their own time, recognizing that grief is not linear.
Grief is natural and is most notable where there was first beauty. While none of us wish to watch loved ones suffer in grief, we can provide comfort and support as we show them that we care- which, if you’re reading this article, you clearly do.