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Helping Others Cope with the Death of a Pet

While it may be difficult to know how best to help a friend or relative who has recently lost a beloved pet, the empathy of family and friends can be an important part of the healing process.

Today’s pets are truly are members of the family, and many pet lovers have a strong emotional bond with their dog or cat.   For them, the loss of a beloved companion animal can be the equivalent of losing a family member.

Unfortunately, modern society doesn’t offer much sympathy for the loss of a pet.   Instead, many pet owners hear phrases like “it was just a dog” or “you can get another one.”   As a consequence, many bereaved pet owners keep their sorrow and pain to themselves.    

Encourage them to talk
One of the best ways to support a friend or relative who has recently lost a pet is to encourage them to express grief.   Let your pet loving friend talk openly about his or her pet.  By being a good listener, the bereaved can express feelings and strive to put them in perspective.  Discussing the pet, its meaning and how much it is missed can bring some comfort and solace to the pet owner.

Show your support.
In addition to offering a kind word or a sympathetic ear, show your support with a gesture of consolation:  send a sympathy card, give a framed photo of the friend with his/her pet, or make a donation in the pet’s memory to a local animal shelter or animal welfare group.  By recognizing and appreciating the depth of the grief experienced, you can help the pet owner feel freer to deal with his or her loss openly.

You might also want to provide your friend with an inspirational book offering words of support, or direct them to one of the many websites that suggest remedial steps to help them heal.  See the Inspiration page of our website.

Help them find help
If it’s clear your friend is inconsolable, check with your local humane or veterinarian society about a support group.  These groups bring pet lovers together to discuss their feelings of grief and sadness as well as the happy memories about their deceased pet.   There are also pet loss counselors available by phone who can offer one-on-one grief counseling, if needed.  See our list of Resources for grieving pet owner.

Experiencing the loss of a loyal pet's friendship and companionship can be made easier with the consolation and comfort of those around you.