- Death & Loss of Life
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.
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 http://aplb.org/index.html 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.