Pet loss is an often misunderstood loss. Unfortunately, some people do not understand that losing a pet can be just as devastating as losing a human family member. Those experiencing deep grief over the loss of a beloved pet often feel empty, ashamed of their grief, and alone. Fortunately, there are many who do understand and want to help others through their grief. If you are one of those people, but just don’t know how to help, the following is what I have learned through my years as a veterinarian:
The most important thing is to just be there. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say. It’s actually okay to say nothing. Listen to the stories they want to share about their pet. Don’t minimize their feelings or tell them they can always get another pet. Just being with them and really listening to them is great support.
Asking people to call you if they need help usually doesn’t work. Many people in deep grief actually do not have the energy to call. They often struggle doing the simplest things. It is usually best that you reach out to them. Offer to take them to dinner, appointments, and help them with simple tasks, like grocery shopping, that may be difficult. Be there when they bring their pet’s ashes home.
It can also help to memorialize their pet in some way. You can make a collage or have a memorial service. One memento I have done for one of my friends was to make a memorial box. I took photos of important items and events, miniaturized, laminated, and placed them in a personalized, beautiful, tiny box. Something like this is easy to keep forever.
I have learned I can’t take away their pain, but it does greatly help a mourning person to know that someone understands, is there for them, and they are not alone.
In Memory of Sugar the Wonder Pony