by Kamira Gayle, author of Impurrfectlife.com– A blog about finding, joy, inspiration and comfort after pet loss.
As a pet parent that is grieving the loss of her fur baby, I have experienced both the good, bad and the ugly side of grief. Experiencing pet loss is one of the hardest things you may experience in your life and moving forward to a place of healing is possible, but no one said it would be easy. Having a great support system makes all the difference. However, take heed to my warning, that when the time comes and you are grieving the loss of your pet, not everyone will have the common courtesy or sense to be empathetic to your situation. With that said, I’ll share 10 things to avoid saying to a grieving pet parent followed by 5 Helpful tips to comfort them.
After the loss of my cat Dusty two years ago, I had encountered mostly positive and comforting reactions from my peers however a few people I encountered, were less than empathetic. I’ll share with you some of the comments I found in to be in poor taste so word to the wise. I wrote a blog post about 5 things NOT to say to a grieving pet parent. Some of those comments are:
5 Things NOT to say to a grieving pet parent
1. So, when are you getting another pet? Excuse me? Losing a pet is not like losing that one sock in the washing machine that you never get back. You can always buy another replacement. A pet you have grown to love and care for is not a material possession. They are family.
2. Is was just a dog/cat/etc.? Correction, Fluffy is not just a cat, a dog or a rabbit (fill in the blank) they are part of the family. They were more than fur and paws. They are representative of unconditional love, family and my best friend and confidant. My furry friend was my partner in crime. They celebrated and shared all my life’s highs and lows. Fluffy is more than just a cat or a dog.
3. Did you really have her/him cremated? Do you ask the same question when a great grandparent passes away? As a pet parent, you have the discretion to choose how you want to discard of the body any way you see fit. Fluffy is not their pet, they are yours. Frankly, what you do with Fluffy is your business.
4. They were old anyway. Just because they are old, doesn’t mean their live has any less value.
5. You haven’t moved on yet? Just like with any traumatic event, no you don’t get over it so quick. Everyone grieves differently and in their own time. There is no time limit on grief, not matter how much time you shared together.
Here are 5 additional things to avoid saying:
6. You have other pets, don’t you? Yes, I have other pets, but a piece of my heart is missing. You wouldn’t say something so cruel to a person who lost a triplet? Well you have two more siblings, don’t you? To imply that remaining pets that are still alive is sufficient to comfort the loss of one you lost is absurd. Not only are you grieving the loss as a pet parent, your other pets grieve the loss of their sibling too.
7. They were sick anyway. It was for the best. Regardless of the state or condition your pet was in, it doesn’t make the decision to let go any easier. Sure, they aren’t physically suffering anymore, but that does not make the pain you feel lessen any. This is a very unempathetic statement to say in your time of grief.
8. Fluffy annoyed you anyway and got on your nerves. Family and friends get on my nerves too however that doesn’t mean losing one would make me feel better. Again, a very insensitive comment to make. Family is family, flaws and all.
9. You’ll feel better when you get another one. Again, our pets are individual beings with their own personalities. When one loses a pet, it’s heartbreaking and not like losing a set of car keys. They are family members, irreplaceable. With time life moves on and yes, I may get a different pet but it’s in poor taste to mention another pet in this time of grief so fresh.
10. Don’t cry. One is not at liberty to tell you how to grieve. Period. How you choose to express your grief is up to you. If crying makes other people around you uncomfortable, they can exit the door. A true friend will allow you to express your grief through tears if needed because they understand the magnitude of the loss.
Now that I’ve covered what NOT to say to a grieving pet parent and why, here are 5 helpful things to say and do to comfort a grieving pet parent. Based on my own experience, I found these tips to be very comforting and help me heal in the grieving process. Some of these tips really warmed my heart to the point of (happy) tears.
5 helpful things to do to comfort a grieving pet parent
Send a floral arrangement/fruit basket with a note – Sending a friend or a loved one an arrangement is always a lovely gesture. Whether it is a birthday or for sympathy, I really don’t think you can every go wrong with a nice floral arrangement or fruit basket to show you care and are thinking of them.
Give a sympathy card with caring handwritten note – Another way to show you care is with a simple hand-written card. I received a few heartfelt cards and it was nice to know my friends/family cared. This may be a great option for those who are shy and may feel awkward talking directly to the grieving pet parent. Grief and loss is a hard subject and not everyone feels comfortable talking out in the open about it, so a hand-written card may be the route you wish to take.
Send a donation to an animal shelter or charity in honor of the pet– A third way to show you care, is making a donation to a local pet charity or shelter in the name of the deceased pet. When my cat Dusty passed away my veterinarian had made a donation to a local no kill shelter in honor of her. I received a personalized note card in my mailbox indicating a donation was made in honor of Dusty Gayle. This was totally unexpected but very thoughtful, unique and heartfelt. I won’t forget it.
Send a personalised pet memorial gift from CPC or a memorial candle like a Healing Hearts Candle Fourth, if flowers aren’t your thing you can purchase a memorial gift from CPC Cares collection of items or you can consider a unique gift like Pet Perennial’s Healing Hearts Candle. I did a review on this item in a post called Pet Perennial’s Healing Hearts Candle: A Review. It’s a unique way to show a grieving pet parent you care that they will appreciate.
Comforting words such as… Lastly, when it comes to what you should say, here are some comforting words that will warm any pet parents heart. I know, I’ve heard them all.
- Is there anything I can do? Let me know. More than likely, a grieving pet parent will say no, but the hear this, makes it known you care and that’s all that’s really needed. Just knowing you care and are concerned is enough.
- I’m here if you need someone to listen. I didn’t feel like talking the first few weeks because the pain was too hard to talk about without crying. However, I did appreciate my peers and friends letting me know if I wanted to talk, vent or cry they would be there and listen. Again, another show of support, very much appreciated.
- You were the best pet parent Fluffy could have. This is comforting to here. Depending on how your pet passed, you may be struggling with feelings of guilt (i.e.: Deciding to Euthanize) Someone letting you know you did the best you could, helps provide a bit of comfort and release from those guilty feelings after pet loss. It’s reassurance you did your best and not to beat yourself up about how they passed away.
- I don’t know what to say. (Hug your friend) I for one, can appreciate this honesty and comforting action. Like I mentioned, some people honestly aren’t good at talking about loss or grief but they can still show they care. Even stating “I don’t know what to say” followed with a hug is more than enough to show me some compassion. Chances are if you know someone that says this to you, you probably know them well enough to understand they mean well even though they can’t find the right words to express it. And that’s okay.
- I understand. I’ve been there. If you want to share your story I’m here. Last, this one is priceless. What really helped me was talking to people that have lived through what I’ve gone through because quite frankly, they understand like no one else. Letting a grieving pet parent in on the fact that you know exactly what they are dealing with as a fellow grieving pet parent is a great comfort.
Those are my tips for what NOT to say and what TO say to a grieving pet parent. I hope you find this list helpful and refer back to it, when the time presents itself. Dealing with pet loss is never easy. Having a friend go through this same experience is very difficult and can be awkward. May what I’ve shared with you in this post help give you useful and comforting ways to express your sympathy and compassion for another in need of support.
Share your thoughts. Did you find any of the statements resonate with your experience with pet loss? Comment and share below.