Read This Before You Speak: When Someone Loses a Pet
The Spirit of Bo: In memory of our beloved Jessie who passed away last week, I wanted to pass along some pearls of wisdom about how to comfort someone who has lost a beloved pet. Sometimes, you don’t know what to say and at other times, you may inadvertently say the wrong thing. I did some online research at psychologytoday.com and have found these words to be quite helpful.
First and foremost, never ever say “It was just a dog!” or “It was just a cat!” This not only diminishes the life of the pet but also could offend the pet owner. In a way, this may sound like you are telling the person how silly she might be for loving an animal, and there is nothing silly about that at all. For those who have never had a pet and have not experienced this feeling of loss, this is a good time to exercise empathy for another. The bond between a pet owner and her pet can run very deep.
Never say, “You can get another one.” or “When are you going to get another one?” How is that even comforting? Animals are not replaceable, and that is what that statement implies. While some folks may choose to get another one, they do not do so to replace the pet that died but to have an animal companion by their side. Some people really value and cherish that type of companionship.
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.
Be sympathetic with your words. You can say similar things you would say if a human companion had passed away. Tell your friend you are sorry for her loss. Maybe you can write down some specific memories or impressions you had of the animal or of what the animal meant to your friend. More than anything, just be on hand to listen to your friend.
By all means, send a sympathy card. This is another way to show your support. Send a poem or plant a tree or bush in memory of your friend’s pet. You can even offer to help your friend plan a memorial service.
While I am saddened by the loss of Jessie, I am also happy to have her with me in the Great Beyond. She was a wonderful companion to our human, whom we both miss greatly but will always be with in spirit.