It is pretty understandable that the loss of a pet can be the most devastating event that can shatter a pet owner. For a lot of people, pets are more like a part of family and not just an animal they care. Pets become our best companions and most loyal friends. However, once they are gone, it becomes lonely and depressing just as we feel sad for someone we deeply love. The coping period is difficult and marked by denial, anger, aggression, depression and grief to final acceptance and solace.
Talking to someone who just lost a pet is definitely hard and requires careful selection of words. Even if you had been through this traumatic experience, it is hard to know exactly what to say when someone loses a pet and what to say to make him feel better. Here are a few guidelines and tips to offer support to the friend who have been through this heart-wrenching experience.
What to Say When Someone Loses a Pet
Express Sorrow and Sympathy
“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“It’s devastating to lose them.”
Just be very careful with the choice of words you utter to the grieving pet owner. Keep in mind that he is still in deep sorrow on the loss and it is quite hard for him to get over it immediately. Your speech must be short and supportive so that it does not annoy the sad owner. A lot of people try to crack jokes to lighten the environment or make pet owner feel better, but it is not a good idea. Instead of being insensitive, express your sorrow and sympathy. This will show that you are also experiencing the grief and the loss is indeed devastating.
Be a Good Listener
“I am here anytime if you want someone to talk to or share your feelings.”
“Can I come over and sit with you, or take you to lunch and talk about it?”
It is good to share the pet owner’s pain to ease the burden of sadness. People usually want someone who can listen to their stories, appreciate them and support them. You should offer a supporting hand to the pet owner to make him feel relaxed and comfortable. Get them something to eat and talk about the loss so that they can feel relaxed by your non-judgmental attitude.
Share Memories of the Pet
“So how’d you two first met?”
“I still remember how he/she used to...”
Sharing memories and stories of the pet will bring you closer to the pet owner. It will create an imaginary boundary of thoughts and memories around the pet owner’s mind and makes it more convenient for him to share his thoughts with you.
Alleviate the Feeling of Guilt
“You did everything you could do.”
“Your pet was so lucky to have you.”
Usually in this kind of situations, pet owner feels guilty and thinks that the loss of the pet is due to their negligence or they could have saved the pet if they had taken him or her to hospital on time etc. This guilty feeling enhances their sadness and may delay the process of healing. In all such situations, it is your duty to tell the owner that he did what he could to save the pet. He shouldn’t be guilty as we cannot change the fate of anyone. Remind them how they had cared for their pet in crucial times. Tell them that your pet was really a lucky pet to have such a caring owner.
Reflect in a Proper Way
“You can take as much time as you like to recover from this loss.”
Tell them that it will take some time to heal emotionally from this loss. Sadness does not end in a day or two, it takes time to fade the sorrows. Also, tell them that the pain is transitory and these emotional setbacks helps us get stronger. Tell the owner the reality of life and death, but make sure to reflect it properly according to their wishes.
Offer Your Help
“Is there anything I can do?”
Offer help to ease the pet owner’s pain. You can lend them ideas or maybe share some previous experiences how you or other pet owners recovered from the loss. Give them alternate ways through which they can feel that their pet is still close to them, like keeping a picture of pet in wallet or room, using the claw mark on key chains or keeping the things of their pet like collar, dresses, chains and threads. This will help them move on slowly and make them feel better.
What Not to Say When Someone Loses a Pet
Don’t say, “Oh, it’s just a dog, come on!”
Never ask about getting a new pet, such as “Why don’t you get a new cat/dog?” or “Do you have other pet animals?”
Don’t emphasize on saying something like “Think about good times and forget the rest, just move on now.”
Let the owner cry and don’t stop him from crying as it won’t help. Don’t use words like “Your crying won’t bring him back.” Crying releases the sorrows and is part of a healing process.
Never say, “Stop making a big deal out of it” or “Haven’t you get over it yet?” Do not focus your words on getting better.
Don’t just ask them to go on drugs or alcohol to lessen their sorrow.
Don’t say, “If I were you, I would have done it (or would do it) this way.” or “Why did you do that?” Don’t make the owner guilty by saying such things.
Do not use euphemisms such as, “At least he is in no more pain”, “Time will heal”, “He/she is in a better place”, or “Life goes on”, “You were lucky to have him/her this long”.
- Regard the pet with his or her name and use the name in front of his owner.
- Send flowers to the pet owner with a condolence note and comments about the pet.
- Give donations in the name of pet to pet organizations.
- Give a hug or keep your hands on the pet owner's shoulder so as to show that you are also sorry.