How to Help Someone Who's Grieving the Loss of Their Pet

Saying goodbye to a pet is terribly hard — and sometimes it's difficult to know how to help a friend or family member who's going through this grieving process.

Even with the best intentions, you might say the wrong thing or be unsure of what to do for that person. So we’ve pulled together a few simple ways you can be a real help, plus advice for avoiding pitfalls when someone you love is heartbroken over the loss of a pet.

Helping a Loved One Cope With Pet Loss

pet loss grief holding hands

Thinkstock

Encourage Healthy Grieving

It’s important to remember that grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a pet and that everyone experiences the range of emotions that come with it differently. You may be familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Let your friend know that you are there to listen and that it’s completely normal to grieve a pet as you would a person. Allow the pet owner to open up about her feelings and the special bond she shared with the animal.

bringing food to someone grieving a pet

Thinkstock

Help Them Take Care of Themselves

Often people who are grieving can lose sight of their own well-being, both physically and emotionally. You can help by supplying food that’s comforting and healthy, like fruit and vegetables or a nice, warm soup, as well as other necessities. You may also offer to help with tasks that would be difficult to face, like picking up the pet’s ashes or packing away the pet's toys.

grief over losing pet consoling

Thinkstock

Say the Right Things

Saying the right things often means avoiding saying the wrong things. Those include asking when one will get another animal, minimizing the loss by saying it was “just a dog” or "just a cat," telling the person to move on, or saying that heartbreak is why you don’t have pets, among other things. You’re best off offering your love and lending an ear.

woman running with dog at sunset

Thinkstock

Remember the 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, Dr. Marty Becker writes. But later they can make someone smile or laugh at a beloved pet’s antics — like the things the dog chewed up as a puppy, what it was like to bring the pet home for the first time, or their excitement about a place they loved to visit together.

Help Someone Grieving a Pet Support Group

Thinkstock

Suggest a Support Group

If your friend is still struggling after some time, consider suggesting a pet loss support group, Dr. Patty Khuly writes. These groups can be found in many communities, and your veterinarian may be able to help you find one. There are also pet loss hotlines available through the ASPCA and Tufts University, and you can find staffed pet loss support chat rooms through pet memorial websites.

More on Vetstreet:

Google+

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!