When the Time Comes: How to Help a Friend Cope with Pet Loss

pet lossThe loss of a beloved pet is a day every pet owner dreads. The heart-wrenching ordeal is an inevitable part of pet ownership, but that fact doesn’t make it any easier to cope with such an enormous loss.

It can be difficult to know what to do or say to comfort a friend who is grieving the death of a pet. Helping someone grieve is an important part of a relationship, and can give you the opportunity to show a friend or family member how much you care. Check out our guidelines for helping a friend cope with pet loss.

Providing Support

It’s easy to say or do the wrong thing when a friend is going through the grieving process. In our experience, having a plan in place ahead of time can make all the difference when it comes to supporting a loved one in a sympathetic and helpful way. Consider the following:

  • Encourage healthy grieving – Remember that everyone expresses grief differently. Be accepting of your loved one’s grieving process, and allow him or her the time and space to express their emotions in whatever way feels best.
  • Don’t minimize the experience – For some people, the death of a pet is as devastating as the death of a human family member. Avoid saying things like “At least he didn’t suffer”, sharing stories of your own pet’s death, or any other effort to reduce the enormity of your friend’s emotions.
  • Offer your time – Offer to help with household chores, errands, or caring for other pets. Help your friend plan a memorial service or other remembrance ceremony or project.
  • Take a walk down memory lane – When your friend is ready, reminisce about his or her pet, sharing funny or heartwarming stories that you remember.
  • Just listen – Non-judgmental listening is a powerful form of support when a loved one is grieving.
  • Be there – The grieving process doesn’t end once the pet has been buried/cremated. Your loved one will probably still need your support in the weeks and months following the death, even a simple phone call to ask how he or she is doing can be enormously helpful.

Helping Children Cope with Pet Loss

For many children, the loss of a pet may be their first experience with death. Many parents understandably feel the urge to shield a child from death and the subsequent grief, but helping your child work through the wide range of emotions that follows pet loss is ultimately the best thing you can do for him or her.

Remember:

  • Stick to the basic truths of your pet’s death. Offer age-appropriate explanations and answer your child’s questions honestly.
  • Don’t hide your own sadness…letting your child see you experiencing your emotions shows that it’s ok to grieve.
  • If you chose to euthanize your pet, help your child understand this difficult decision and why it was the right choice for your pet.
  • Inform your child’s teacher or caregiver and ask for understanding support.
  • Check out your public library for age-appropriate books about pet loss.
  • Don’t adopt a new pet too quickly; your child deserves time to process the loss of a special friend.

When a loved one has experienced a tremendous loss, sometimes the best way we can offer support is by simply being present.

For more information on pet loss and how to support a pet owner during this difficult time, please contact the team at Schertz Animal Hospital or refer to our pet loss library.

posted in:  Pet Loss