Losing a pet can be a deeply emotional experience. Many of us view our pets as part of the family, and the loss can be just as painful as losing a human loved one. As someone trying to be supportive to a friend or family member grieving the loss of their pet, you may be wondering what to say or not to say to help them cope.
In this guide, we will go over 10 things to say (and not to say) to someone grieving a pet to help them feel supported and understood during this difficult time.
The first and most important thing you can say to someone grieving a pet is simply, "I'm sorry for your loss." For many of us, we don’t know the right thing to say in a time of loss, so this can be a safe start. Whether or not you knew your friend’s pet, you’re acknowledging their importance and sympathising with the pain of losing them.
If you knew the pet, sharing happy memories can be a great way to support someone grieving their furry friend. Share stories about the pet's funny quirks or the special moments you shared with them. This can help your friend or loved one remember the joy their pet brought them and honour their memory.
Let your friend know that you are there for them and willing to help in any way you can. Ask if they need anything or if there's anything you can do to help them through this difficult time. This can be a simple offer to listen or a more concrete offer to help with practical tasks, like grocery shopping or helping with cleaning.
Grieving is a process, and it can take time for someone to work through their emotions after losing a pet. Let the person know that you are there to listen whenever they need to talk. You don’t need to know the right thing to say; just being there to listen can be of immense comfort and help.
Finally, it's important to validate the person's feelings. Losing a pet can be a very emotional experience, and everyone copes with grief in their own way. Let them know that it's okay to feel sad, angry, or whatever emotion they’re experiencing.
Grieving a pet is still not completely recognised in our society as a valid reason to take time off work or cancelling plans, so validating their feelings can help them feel more supported through their loss.
While there are many things you can say to be supportive when someone is grieving the loss of their pet, there are also some things that are not helpful and can even be hurtful.
The last thing you want to do is unintentionally hurt someone when they are in a low period of their life, so here are some things to avoid saying:
This phrase can be dismissive and invalidating to your friend’s feelings. To them, their pet was a beloved member of their family and meant the world to them.
Saying "it's just a pet" can make them feel like their grief is not important and like you are ridiculing them for their emotional response.
While it may be true that the pet was elderly or had health problems, this statement can still be insensitive. Losing a pet is never easy, and the person may still be grieving their loss regardless of the pet's age or health.
If your friend uses this statement or similar sentiments like “they’re no longer suffering”, you can take their lead on this topic of conversation, but don’t be that person who brushes over the loss just because the pet was ill or elderly.
While your intention behind this statement may be pure, it can come off as insensitive. Everyone grieves in their own way and on their own timeline. Suggesting that the person should replace their pet may make them feel like their pet was not special and easily replaceable.
However, if your friend does decide to get a new pet a short time after losing and grieving their previous pet, it isn’t your place to judge that decision. Having a new companion around to look after and love can help mend the whole their previous pet left, but doesn’t mean they’re forgotten.
Again, while this statement may be well-intentioned, it can be dismissive of your loved one’s grief. Losing a pet is never easy, regardless of how long they lived. Think about the fact that the longer the life the pet had, the more memories shared, and maybe the loss is even more intense because of that.
How do you know that? This phrase may be comforting to some, but for others, it can be hurtful. If the person does not believe in an afterlife or doesn't share the same beliefs as you, this statement can invalidate their feelings.
Grief is the price we pay for love, whether that’s love for another person or a beloved family pet. If you’ve never had a pet, or maybe just haven’t had a strong relationship with yours, you might struggle to understand someone else’s intense grief for the loss of their own.
Being a good friend is about being sympathetic and supportive to what they're going through. By using these, hopefully you can be just that for your grieving friend.
At Goodbye Good Boy, we provide home euthanasia services to support loving owners in providing a peaceful passing for their beloved pets.
The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options.
To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give our team of passionate pet lovers a call on 1800 953 619.