Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital’s Blog
A Helping Hand: Supporting a Loved One Through Pet Loss
All pet owners know that the death of a beloved companion is one of the most heartbreaking experiences in life, and watching a loved one grapple with pet loss can be nearly as difficult. Even if we’ve experienced pet loss ourselves, it can be challenging to know what to say to someone else.
Your friends at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital understand the deep grief that surrounds the loss of a beloved pet, and we are here to help. We’ve pulled together some simple ideas you can use to help a friend or family member cope with this enormous loss, along with some advice for avoiding common mistakes when someone you care about is dealing with pet loss.
Encourage Healthy Grieving
Grief comes in all shapes and sizes. By keeping in mind that everyone experiences grief in his or her own way, you can provide nonjudgmental support. Remind your loved one that a wide range of emotions is normal, and encourage him or her to take whatever time and space is needed to experience and process these feelings.
The Gift of Time
Rather than say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do”, offer your help in a tangible way, such as with household chores, comforting meals, running errands, or caring for other pets. Assisting with difficult tasks, like packing up pet toys or picking up the pet’s ashes, can also be helpful.
Memorializing Pet Loss
Offer to help your loved one create a way to memorialize his or her pet, whether that is with a service, a scrapbook, framed photo, or donation in the pet’s name. Sharing funny or sweet stories and other forms of reminiscing can also be healing, provided the grieving pet owner is ready.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do for a friend or family member who is grieving is to just listen! Being present is one of the most powerful forms of support you can offer to anyone. Remember that your loved one will continue to need your support in the weeks/months following the death, and taking the time to reach out to him or her can be very helpful.
What Not to Do
In our efforts to make our loved ones feel better, it can be easy to say or do something insensitive. You can honor both your friend’s feelings and the life of his or her pet by avoiding the following common mistakes:
- Don’t minimize your friend’s grief by saying things like “It was only a (dog, cat, rabbit, etc.)” or “At least he/she didn’t suffer”.
- Don’t compare your loved one’s experience to your own or to others you have known.
- Don’t judge the choices your loved one has made regarding his or her pet’s end of life situation.
- Don’t ask when he or she is planning on getting a new pet.