Many of us share an intense love and bond with our animal companions. It is a pet is not “just a dog” or “just a cat,” but rather a beloved member of our family, bringing companionship, fun, and joy to our lives.
A pet can add structure to your day, keep you active and social, help you to overcome setbacks and challenges in life. It’s natural to feel devastated by feelings of grief and sadness when a beloved dog, cat, or other pet dies.
When a friend or someone you know loses a pet, you can employ the following techniques to help them cope.
1. Encourage Healthy Grieving
It’s important to remember grief is a natural reaction when one losses a pet. It is critical for you to understand that people process grief differently.
You may be familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As someone goes through the process, let them know you are there to listen. More important allow them to grieve a pet just as they would a person. It is completely normal.
Allow pet owner to open up about their feelings and special bond they shared with the animal.
2. Help Them Take Care of Themselves
Often people who are grieving lose sight of their own wellbeing, both physically and emotionally. You could help by providing food that is comforting and healthy. Fruits, vegetable and warm soup could do the trick.
Also keep in mind people experiencing intense grief will not be able to articulate their own needs. Their minds are often preoccupied with loss and sadness.
Think about your friend’s daily life and fill the needs you can. Bring them coffee, bring in their mail or newspaper, offer to do laundry or housekeeping, offer to pick upkids from school; anticipate their needs if you can.
3.Say The Right Things
Saying the right things often means avoid saying the wrong things. Avoid asking when one will get another animal. Don’t try to minimize the loss by saying it was just “a cat” or “a dog”.
Telling the person to move on or saying that heartbreaks is why you don’t have pets is out rightly being rude! You’re best offering you’re your love and lending an ear.
4.Remember Happy times
Sometimes words can help, like if you have a happy memory of the pet to share. At first, memories may be painful to recall. However, with time they can make someone smile or laugh at a beloved pet’s antics.
Memories of what a puppy chewed up as a puppy, what it was like bringing the pet home for first time or their excitement about a place they loved to visit together.
Helping someone grieving prepare a journal or scrapbook can help them process their feelings.
Through journaling, one can reminisce and express their unfiltered thoughts and feelings. A journal can contain pictures of their pet, memories of special places visited or other mementos.
5.Suggest A Support Group
If your friend is struggling after sometime, consider suggesting a pet loss support group. These groups can be found in many communities. Your veterinarian may be able to help find one.
There are also pet loss hotlines available through ASPCA and Tufts University. You can find staffed pet loss support chat rooms through pet memorial websites.
Often, another person who has also experienced loss of a beloved pet may better understand what someone is going through.
6.Make A Personalized Gift
There are several ways you can create a small, memorial for the beloved pet.
Depending on your budget or artistic skills, you could consider painting a portrait of the pet.
This will go a long way to show someone grieving that you care.
You could also consider making or purchasing a dog memorial stone for your friend’s garden. There are available at pet store and often come with names and dates of birth and death.
It could also help if you planted a tree in honor of the pet.
7.Know The Role That Pet Played In Your Friend’s Life
It can be hard to understand what your friend is going through especially if you do not have pets yourself. Pets play the same physiological role like a sibling, partner or child.
While that might seem extreme, any pet lover can tell you that human-animal bond is deep. Losing a pet is very similar in many ways to losing a loved one of the human kind!
Having a pet reduces feeling of loneliness and increases opportunities for socialization. People often stop to talk to others who have pets. Pets are great at keeping people from feeling lonely.
8.Understand the Grieving Process
Just as with death of a loved one, the death of a pet often causes intense grief cycle that never really resolves.
Don’t expect someone to just stop talking about their pet or grief just like it was a possession and not a friend.
You should understand that grief is a personal process that is different for everyone. There is no definite period or timetable to grief.
Your friend may even feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about her loss with others, because many people do not understand the psychological intensity of pet bereavement. She may fear that you will think she is overreacting or that she should not grieve so intensely.
Respect is Everything
Respect and acknowledge the person’s grief. It is not always socially acceptable to grieve over a pet like one would over the loss of a person, but pet owners who are grieving need support.
Sometimes, the grief of losing a pet can be the same as losing a friend or family member, if not more.