What To Say To Someone Whose Pet Died To Show You Care About Their Grief
Anyone who’s ever lost a pet knows the deep void they leave behind. The grief we experience when we lose our best friend can be profound. Sometimes we might feel shocked at the depth of loss and heartbreak we're experiencing; we may even feel like we shouldn’t be grieving so much for a pet, but it’s totally and completely natural. In fact, studies show that losing a pet is every bit as traumatic as losing a family member; I mean, many of us feel that our pets are part of our families, right? So know that whatever you feel when your pet dies is completely natural, and the last thing you need on top of the pain you're already dealing with is to judge your grief as somehow wrong — it's definitely not. And if you're searching for what to say to someone whose pet died to show you care, know that empathy really is the best policy here.
Our animals are a source of unceasing companionship — often for years of our lives — and the unconditional love we feel for and from them is unique. Their care becomes woven into our daily routines, and they offer us profound comfort, fun, and an often much-needed and uncomplicated love. Whenever we’re experiencing any kind of loss, our support system is crucial to our well-being. And if someone you know is grieving because they’ve just lost a pet, you might wonder how you can help. It’s important to know what to say to a grieving person, and how to best offer support. Someone in a grief process can be deeply vulnerable, and is hurting a lot — so what we say, or don’t say, matters more than ever. Here are five ways to support someone whose pet has died, as well as some things to avoid.
1. Empathy Is Key
Showing up for a grieving person is really, really important. And you might feel uncertain or nervous as to what to say, which is totally understandable. But know that your presence and loving care is enough — saying something like, "I'm here, and I'm so sorry for your loss," or "Jack was such a wonderful dog, and I can't imagine what you're going through right now," is a lot. You can't take the loss away, but you can help your loved one know that they're not alone.
2. It's OK To Focus On The Pain
It may seem counterintuitive when someone is suffering to just sit with how much something sucks, but this can be exactly what a grieving person needs. Don't feel pressured to cheer your loved one up, or look for an upside to their loss; in fact, when someone is grieving, it can actually be more comforting to hear "Wow, this is terrible," as opposed to feeling pushed to feel better before they're ready to. Sometimes, the best thing we can do for a grieving person is to validate that their experience is painful, and that's OK.
3. Keep Up With The Process
Often when a person first experiences a loss, the wave of initial support is great, and the Facebook messages and condolences come rolling in. But these expressions of support tend to wane over time as folks get distracted and busy, and a grieving person can be left feeling alone while they're still hurting. In the weeks and months following the death of your friend's pet, remember to keep checking in to make sure you're friend is OK, and to show that you know how major a loss this is for her. On some days she may be feeling better, and on others it may be harder — but knowing that someone is there to lend an ear, or a shoulder to cry on, can make all the difference.
4. Listening Is Sometimes Enough
As your loved one is processing the loss of their pet, they may need to talk, or "tell the story" about how their beloved best friend died. Remember that it's enough sometimes to simply listen well, and let them talk it out. They might need to do this multiple times as they heal, so just know that listening is a powerful way to lend your support. And sometimes, that's all the other person needs.
5. Commemorate Their Beloved Buddy
A great way to show your loved one how much you care is by remembering their dearly departed fur baby. Maybe get a portrait of their dog drawn, plant a commemorative garden or tree, or frame a favorite pic. Share what you remember of how wonderful their pet was. Finding creative ways to celebrate the life of your friend's pet is a healing and beautiful way to show your support.
Remember that support is key to helping a grieving person recover, and that healing takes time. It also tends to be non-linear; some days we might feel better, and then other days are more challenging again. Aim to validate your friend's grief process, and avoid overly simplistic, minimizing, or flippant remarks about their loss. Also, remember to stay with the process, and let your friend know that you're there, and that you understand that healing is a marathon, and not so much a sprint — especially after those initial days and weeks have passed.