Do you know someone that’s had a pet die?
Do you want to help, but don’t know what to say?
That’s okay. No one taught us what to say or how to help. In fact, most of what we were taught isn’t helpful and can even be harmful. So kudos to you for wanting to learn more!
You may be surprised to know that people are often shocked at the intensity of their heartache when their pet dies, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? Pets love you when you’re having a good day or a bad day. Pets don’t judge or criticize. Some people are even closer to their pets than they are to other people. This means that your grieving friend or family member truly needs support. We applaud you for wanting to help!
Here are a few things not to say to someone grieving the loss of their pet followed by ways you can help.
- Your dog is in a better place
- Don’t feel bad
- Be strong for the kids
- She was only a cat. It’s not like it was a person
- You knew your dog would die before you
- Everything happens for a reason
- Now you can travel more
- Be sure to get rid of all of his toys
- Make sure to keep all of her toys
- You’ll feel better in time
- Focus on the good times you shared
- I know how you feel
Although many of the above statements are intellectually true, they don’t help. Why? Intellect doesn’t heal a broken heart. We get it, no one wants to see their friends and family in pain, but intellectual comments imply that the griever is broken. Grief is the normal and natural response to loss, so there is nothing wrong with grieving. Grievers don’t need to be fixed. They need to be listened to without analysis, criticism, or judgment.
Here’s an example,
How many times have you heard, “Don’t feel bad, on Sunday we’ll get you a new dog”?
Now imagine if someone said, “Don’t feel bad, on Sunday we’ll get you a new grandpa”.
You can’t replace a loss, but can get complete, so try saying these things instead:
- Ask what happened
- Listen without analysis, criticism, or judgment
- Be an example. If you’re the parent, talk about your feelings first. Then ask your child if there’s anything he wishes he could have said or done differently.
- Say, “I don’t know what to say”
- Say, “I can’t imagine how you feel”
- Say, “Your feelings are normal”
- Say, “Take all the time you need”
There is hope. No one has to be stuck in their grief forever.