I got a call from my mum on what I thought was an ordinary Tuesday. As soon as she started talking, her voice cracked and she was obviously distraught. “I made the mistake of looking at my calendar,” she said. “He’s been gone a whole year now.” The “he” referred to Mr. Bojangles, her beloved cat of 15 years. She had a special bond with him and even a year later, continues to feel this emptiness. The loss of a pet can be devastating. If your loved one has been suffering, here’s how you can help.
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How To Help Someone Dealing With The Loss Of Pet
Dealing with loss and grief is always difficult. Any kind of change can be a struggle, especially one that leaves a void. A 2012 Washington Post article shared that for some, losing a pet is just as painful as losing a human companion and for some it’s even more difficult. For nearly 40 percent of people, a dog is considered their closest relationship, closer than significant others and relatives.
1. Acknowledge Their Pain
It’s not “just a dog” or “just a cat.” It was their companion who lived with them for several years. Dismissing someone’s pain can be just as hurtful as the initial loss. Acknowledge their grief, even if you are unable to relate to it. At no point should you try to compare your (or any) loss with theirs. Each loss or feeling is unique in its own way.
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2. Help with Difficult Tasks
It might be too painful to pick up the ashes from the vet or even clean up the house. Help out by running any necessary errands, picking up toys, cleaning and storing the cage, or vacuuming fur off the floor and furniture. If you’re unable to do any of these, show up with their favorite cake. Your friend will appreciate any thoughtful act.
3. Don’t Look Ahead too Soon
Listen to them and let them talk through their sadness. Do not suggest running to the closest animal shelter to find a replacement. Each animal shares a unique bond with its human companion and can’t just be replaced like furniture or a raincoat. Maybe your friend will want a new pet eventually, but let them come to that decision in their own time.
4. Revisit Happier Times
Share a funny story about the pet. Thinking about the happier times could bring a laugh or smile. Just be sure the time is right. Maybe your friend isn’t ready to think about that time their new puppy shredded the couch. Judge the situation accordingly.
Help your friend set up an online memorial space for their pet. This ensures all the photos, memories, videos and messages of love (from friends and family) are all in one place. Looking through old memories is wistful, and can help them cope with their feelings.
Suggested Read: Establishing A Permanent Memorial
5. Find Support
Losing a pet is life-changing and some might need a little extra help to get through it. If your friend is really struggling, suggest they find a support group. They can ask their veterinarian for a local group or call the ASPCA “Loss Hotline” at 877.474.3310.
Do you have any special memories of a pet? Please share them in the comments below.