Losing a pet can be as hard as losing a human family member for many people. Pets give constant companionship and unconditional love, and when a person loses a pet he also loses an important part of his life. Expressing sympathy for the loss shows the person that you understand how important his pet was to him and that you realize this isn’t something he can fix by running out and getting another pet. You can support a grieving pet owner in many ways, and doing so will let her know that you understand, sympathize and care about the grief she is feeling.
Show the person that you understand this is a big loss for him, and don’t downplay how important the pet was in his life. People who say things such as “It was just a dog” or “Why don’t you get another one?” are being highly insensitive and can make the person feel worse, not better. Express understanding of what the pet meant to the person and the impact of the loss when you talk to her to let her know you understand.
Send a sympathy card, just as you would do for a friend who has lost a human family member. You can buy or make cards that are appropriate for the situation. Include a short note to personalize it.
Tell the person who is grieving that you are there for her if she needs to talk. Often people close to someone who has suffered the loss of a pet don’t realize how deeply the hurt goes, and they have little patience for someone who wants to talk about the lost pet or about how badly she is feeling. This is especially true when a week or two has passed, when others are ready to move on but the pet’s owner is not. Just being there for her is a very helpful and supportive way of expressing caring and sympathy.
Inform the bereaved owner about support sites such as Rainbows Bridge, where people who have experienced the loss of a pet can share support for as long as they need to. She can also make a tribute page for her lost pet and read the stories about others, helping her to know she isn’t alone.
Make a donation in the pet’s name to an organization such as the ASPCA or Humane Society. Forward the thanks and acknowledgement to the person who has lost her pet. This lets her know you care about her loss, understand how she feels and want to remember her pet in a positive, helpful way.
Never point out things the owner could have done to save the pet, even if she brings it up first. Talking about “what if” or “if only” is going to make the owner feel worse and is not a helpful way of expressing concern or sympathy.
Be particularly sensitive to the loss of a pet that may have had a deeper-than-average significance. This can be the case if the pet was a gift from a loved one, if he saved his owners from a fire, burglar or other bad situation, or if the owner feels responsible for the loss, such as a dog that escaped from the house and was hit by a car.
- boy cuddling his pet kitten image by Stepanov from Fotolia.com