How to Help Your Friend When They Lose a Pet

We Never Have Our Pets Long Enough

When you love something, you never want to let it go. We never have our pets long enough. They are members of our family and the love and companionship they give us are such a wonderful feeling. Time with our pets is ephemeral. We only have them a short time, and we grieve when we lose them.

I have loved and lost a lot of pets. They each had their own personalities, and their lives were interwoven into our family life. I always think of my dog, Clyde and Sparky the cat, Squeaky, our first guinea pig, Ralph and Henrietta, our bunnies, and the myriad of other pets who were our special part of our lives and our family. It doesn’t matter how old the pet was, it doesn’t matter if was expected or unexpected, or what happened to the beloved companion, the loss is tremendous and it hurts a lot. There are no religious rituals that help a person deal with the loss of a pet. When a friend or someone you know loses a furry, or not so furry member of the family, there are helpful things you do to get them through the feelings they are going through.

Clyde 1996-2008
Clyde 1996-2008
Sparky 1987-2005
Sparky 1987-2005

The Time it Takes to Grieve Knows No Boundaries

The first thing to do is acknowledge that this is a major loss to them. The feelings of grief are real and the best thing you can do for them is the same you would do if they lost a person who was near and dear Be there to help to offer consolation and help your friend grieve. Time knows no boundaries when it comes to healing.

Realize that grief is shown in different ways by different people. You want to make sure they are going through a normal process. Should it seem extensive, or going on for an extended period of time, or the person is showing unusual behavior, or abusing substances, you may want to help them seek professional counseling. The feelings of grief and loss are real and personal to the individual. Even if you can’t relate totally to what your friend is going through,being there for them is important. A shoulder to cry on, someone that is listening, and being non judgemental are some of the ways you can offer support to the person you care about. All you need to understand is that they are going through a difficult time.

Offer to Do Things for Your Friend Without Them Asking You

Very often, people who want to talk about their loss, are not looking for answers. They just want to vent, to be heard, to express their feelings. You can be there for them by letting them talk, listen actively to their story, Let them feel comfortable expressing their emotions. It is also okay to sit in silence. There doesn’t always have to be talking. Your presence is sometimes helpful enough.

Show empathy and understanding even if you never met the pet, or don’t like animals. What is important is that your friend needs you. People often feel alone when they are dealing with a loss. Many people don’t understand the feeling that goes along with pet ownership. Being there for your friend is a great help in them dealing with their own feelings.

People who care, very often don’t want to see their friend in pain and discomfort. It is common for others to tell them to just get over it, without realizing that this loss is very real to them. No one has the right to rush up or push away someone’s feelings. It only makes the person feel more alone and worse. You can support your friend by offering your understandings in whatever way it relates to you. Offer to do things for your friend. Very often, they will not ask for help. Maybe they could use your company if they have to euthanize their pet, or to pick up the remains. Sometimes taking them out to lunch or dinner, or bringing over some food can help them, or run some errands.

Losing a pet is like losing a person. The being you loved is no longer in your life. Also remember, feelings of loss can trigger prior feelings of loss and grief that are coming to the surface. As a friend, don't try to figure out their feelings, don't minimize them, just be there and help them get through this ordeal. Feelings are never simple, or black and white. There is always more to things than you probably realize.

Don't Ask the Person if They Are Going to Get Another Pet

Offering condolences through cards and donations in the pets name offer a lot of comfort to the pet owners. Letting your friend know you loved their pet may help them feel a little better. Helping your friend feel their pet was special is of great comfort at this time.Getting over the loss of a pet takes time. It is different for each individual. Give your friend whatever support they need. Let them tell and retell their stories. Just being there for them is one of the best things you can do.Sometimes people ask the pet owner if they are going to get another pet right away. This is usually not a good idea to ask. The owner needs time to grieve and to settle in from the loss. After a time, they will be able to mentally bond with another pet, but it is on an individual timetable. It is best not to ask this question right away.

There are Pet Bereavement Groups

If your friend is having a hard time getting over the loss, there are pet loss support groups. You can ask a vet for recommendations. The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement has chat rooms run by experienced counselors. The ASPCA has a pet loss hotline 1-877-474-3310 to help the grieving pet owner. If after a short time, things are not seeming better, suggest professional counseling to avert the possiblity of depression.

If you have never lost a pet, or never had a pet, it might be hard to fully understand what your friend is going through. Remember this: Your friend and their pet shared a life together. A pet gives unconditional love, and the loss is a very personal one.

The Void is Always There

No one can really tell someone else how much they love their pet, or how they enriched their lives or what the memories emblazoned in their minds really mean. We share our lives with these animal friends, and when they go they take a piece of them.with us. We feel anguish over the loss. They are irreplaceable.

Their memory will forever reside in our souls, and the void hurts forever, even though we go on. When the loss is fresh, the hurt is fresh. Let them talk about their memories, and cry and grieve to get past this fresh pain.

Don’t minimize their loss or ignore what they are feeling. If you want to be there for them, give them your support. They aren’t asking you to fix anything for them. They just need to know you are there. Accepting your friend’s feeling is helping them.

Comments 18 comments profile image 5 years ago

The thoughtfullness you express is really inspiring tki - through reading your words you really raise the level of understanding when it comes to supporting others in bereavement.

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 5 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi toknowinfo, losing a pet is just has painful has losing a member of your family .

Awesome and vote up !!!

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Pdog, thanks for your comments. When dogs lose owners, it hurts them too. Loss is never easy. If you found this hub is helpful, please send it along to someone if they need some guidance in getting a friend through a rough time.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Tom, Your words are so true. Thanks for stopping by and for the up comments.

Wishing you and Tanya, and everyone in your life, a Happy Easter.

b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

Toknowinfo, this is a very Timely Hub, with lots of good advise. Today, there is even Sympathy Cards for Pets, or you can make one...which is certainly appreciated. Thanks for sharing this wonderful advice, you can tell it comes from your heart.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi B, Thanks for you kind words. When I lost my pets and people gave me sympathy cards it helped me a lot. Sometimes people don't know what to do. Perhaps this hub will help.

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

I think your suggestions are awesome because it really hurts to lose a loving pet. Voted up.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Pam, Thanks for your kind comments. It does hurt to lose a pet and I thought this might help some people.

rpalulis profile image

rpalulis 5 years ago from NY

toknowinfo, thanks for this hub. Loosing your pet stinks and is very sad, you offer great advice here. I am slowly loosing my chocolate lab cricket, we lost her sister glory a few years back and now cricket is starting to go down hill very quickly. This makes me not want to have pets again.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi RP, It hurts so much to lose the pets we love. I am sorry you are going through this right now. I know for me, even with the pain of losing them, there is so much joy to having them. I don't know what I would do without my pets, especially my dogs. You are going through a painful time right now. You don't have to make any decisions. Your heart will tell you what to do. My thoughts and prayers are with you, and Cricket. All the best.

Chatkath profile image

Chatkath 5 years ago from California

Great hub toknowinfo, there really isn't much you can do sometimes except just listen like you said. It is just like losing anyone who is a part of your family and it takes time to heal.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Kath, you words are the truth. It takes time to work through the pain and it helps when people are supportive. Thanks for your kind words about this hub.

Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Awesome and important hub TKI. Great information and reminders about the grieving process when you lose an animal and how it can be even worse than losing a human for some people. Up/Awesome

carolapple profile image

carolapple 5 years ago from Suffolk Virginia

It's hard for a lot of people to emphathize with someone who lost an animal, and they may unintentially minimize the loss. I've been on both sides of pet loss – the grieving one and the one trying to find the words to say to a friend. Very helpful hub!

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Sharyn, Thanks for your kind words. My hope is this hub will be helpful so people can support people in a time of need.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Carol, From what you have said, you know what it feels like on both ends. It is never easy. Hopefully this hub will help many of people. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. On a different note, my hub about Totem Poles was nominated for the Top of the Class Contest. If you like my hub and would like to vote, I would be most appreciative.

Betty Johansen profile image

Betty Johansen 5 years ago

A sensitive, thoughtful, caring hub. Losing a pet may be so painful that the grieving pet owner never wants to get another pet. With that kind of pain involved, your hub is SO meaningful. God bless you for your tender heart and your wise counsel.

toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago Author

Hi Betty, thanks for reading and commenting. A pet is such a loyal companion and the loss leaves a big void. The person is hurting and they need some compassion.

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