Oftentimes, when someone loses a pet, they’ll receive messages of condolences and lots of sympathy– but sadly, not all people understand the gravity of this loss. Some people may say (yes, out loud) that it’s ‘not like you lost an actual family member.’ That this death is in no way comparable to the loss of a human that you love. But for the person that is grieving, those sentiments feel like daggers to the heart.
The simple truth is: Losing a pet is a HUGE deal.
Many families consider their pet to be just as much a part of the family as any human member. Their dog or cat (or other beloved creature) is there for them during times of need. What better way to cure a bad day than to get a slobbery kiss from your dog? Or to hear that comforting purr while your kitty lays beside you?
Pet ownership isn’t about ownership at all. It’s a mutual relationship that has the deepest emotions at the core of its foundation.
But not all people feel this way. Some people may not have pets of their own or they have pets but their relationship with them is different. That is why it’s important to put this out there, and share this article, so others can try to understand what it is like to lose someone you love so deeply.
If someone you know is grieving the loss of their beloved pet, here are some things to consider to help them through the painful process:
Be Gentle With Your Words
Words can hurt. Even though we’re taught at an early age that words do not cause us physical harm, that assumption is totally untrue. What we say matters. If a friend or a loved one has lost a pet, be mindful of what you say to them.
Telling a grieving human that they should just ‘get over it,’ is the worst thing you can say. Would anyone want to be told to get over it if they lost a human family member?
Accept And Respect Their Bond
Many families with pets include their fur-kids in their daily activities. Pet owners will often eat dinner while their dog is chowing down on his meal. Plenty of pet owners walk their dogs multiple times a day. Some may even take them hiking, to the dog park, or for boat rides. Doing things with a pet at one’s side can make the day complete. When these pets are suddenly absent, those days are never the same.
When routines change, there is an actual void left in one’s life. Be mindful of that. See if you can go for walks with your grieving friend or loved one. Offer to keep them company on rough days. Be there for them because they surely need it.
In many cases, people assume that it’s helpful to urge the grieving party to just go out and adopt a new pet. THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! It is healthy to grieve and it is healthy to take the time that is needed to heal, as much as one can, before considering new pet adoption. Respect that there was a deep, everlasting bond that can’t just be magically replaced.
Try To Understand The Grieving Process
Grieving a death has no time limit. There are no exact rules. Respect this. Make sure others you know respect this as well. No one really ‘gets over’ the loss of a family member but time does make things more tolerable.
If someone is in the height of their grief, just be there to listen. They may want to reminisce about some fond memories they have. They may want to show you their favorite photos. Be receptive and be patient.
Being kind can go a long way and remember that each experience is unique. Don’t assume that your grieving process is going to be the same as someone else’s. That’s not how things work.
The reality is– losing a pet is devastating. The best thing you can do, as a good friend, is to offer a shoulder to cry on. Be there to lend an ear. Be a sounding board if they need to vent. Just do your best and remember that grief is not a one-size-fits-all process.