Send flowers, go to the funeral, share an extra-stiff margarita? But how do you support a friend who lost a pet?
We share everything with our pets—our home, our food and our legroom. So even if you haven’t lost a pet, you understand the grieving process can be difficult.
Recently, my friend’s dog passed away. She was 14 years old, but the death was sudden and unexpected. I wanted to show I cared and understood what he was going through so I found a few ways to help support him.
Offer a Listening Ear
“I’m sorry.” “Sending thoughts your way.”
Sometimes words seem empty and fall short. But, that’s okay. Sympathy can also be expressed through silence. If you don’t know what to say, pick up the phone or head over to his house—bring a cup of coffee or some chocolate chip cookies. Sit quietly while he talks about the experience or his feelings.
Make eye contact to show you’re listening, and nod your head in understanding. Allowing your friend to vocalize his or her emotions helps the grieving process along.
Reflect on Memories of the Pet
Pet parents like to know other people loved and enjoyed their pet just as much as they did. Share your favorite memories of your friend’s pet, even if they’re small ones—and use the pet’s name.
Remember that time Checkers ran out the front door, and we spent hours chasing him? Or how about the time Jalapeño stayed over at my house while you were out of town?
Don’t have a memory to share? Head over to Facebook and comment on an old photo of their pet—trust me, all pet parents have oodles of these. Point out how happy his pet looked, or how cute she was as a kitten.
Donate to an Animal Shelter on Their Behalf
Was your pet’s friend a rescue? Make a small donation to the shelter on behalf of her pet. Saving a life while memorializing another one is a win-win situation.
Plant a Flowering Bush in Memory
Trees and flowering bushes will give your friend a concrete, physical representation of his pet’s memory. As he navigates the grieving process, he can water and care for the plant, getting him up, moving and enjoying some Vitamin D.
Lend a Helping Hand
Losing a pet may leave your friend glued to the bed or couch. So, if you prefer to show your love and sympathy through acts of kindness, get to work. Do a quick clean of the house, make a run to the grocery store or pick his kids up from school. Taking away a little of the day’s burdens will give your friend the space he needs to grieve.
Write a Sympathy Card
If you have a way with words, heart-felt cards are a simple way to show you care. Personalize the card by including a memory of the pet, a picture or pointing out ways your friend provided a loving home to their fur child.
Share an Encouraging Book
Books show your friend he isn’t alone in his grief.
“Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet” by Gary Kowalski offers advice on how to cope with the loss of a pet. And the tear-jerker, “Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog” by John Grogan is a heart-warming story all pet lovers can enjoy.
Flowers, cards and books won’t take away the pain of losing a pet, but they will aid in the grieving process and show your friend you care.
As for my friend, I’m dedicating this article to his dog, Ali. See you on the flip side, pooch!