Pet Loss Sympathy | Helping a Friend with Pet Loss
People can deeply grieve the death of a beloved pet, but this type of grief is often overlooked or minimized by others who do not understand. Your grieving friend will appreciate a simple act of kindness or caring note. Use these examples to get you started but your own ideas are always best.
A Simple Note of Caring
People can deeply grieve the deaths of beloved companion animals, yet this type of emotional pain is often minimized or overlooked by others. If you know someone who is grieving the death of a pet, your simple note of caring will surely be appreciated.
There is a good selection of pet sympathy cards available now in grocery stores, pharmacies and card shops; or, you might consider sending a pet sympathy e-card to your grieving friend.
Words of Comfort
With both traditional and electronic cards, try to add one or two sentences from your heart for a personal touch. Write what you would say face to face. Imagine being in that person’s place. What words of comfort would you want someone to write to you if the situation were reversed?
It is wise to refrain from suggesting another pet right away because your friend needs time to grieve the death of a beloved companion. Like grief itself, the decision to open the heart to a new animal, or not, is unique.
The note you put in a sympathy card may be the hardest two sentences you ever write. A pet loss condolence note can be short, just two or three sentences. Call the deceased pet by name, if possible. For example, writing your dog Skipper is much more personal than writing only your dog.
Is it loss or death?
I have mixed feelings about the word loss because I did not "lose" my cats. They died. You will not find a sympathy card with the word death on it, but this is exactly what has happened: your friend's beloved pet is dead. The word loss is a gentler way of phrasing the circumstances and pet loss is the most common way of meaning the death of a pet. This website is titled Grief and Pet Loss, after all.
Select cards with words of comfort and be careful with saccharine poetry. It can come across as insincere. Your signature alone is not enough. Think of one or two sentences that express your love and support.
Sometimes, just getting the first sentence on paper is enough to let the caring thoughts flow. Here are some examples of first sentences to get you started on your letter of condolence, but your own words always work best:
My thoughts and prayers are with you during this sad time.
I am so sorry to hear about the death of __________.
I regret that I live so far away from you, especially during this sad time. I wish I could give you a hug right now.
I will be calling you before the end of the week. (Please follow through on this promise.)
I have wonderful memories of __________. (Then share one or two.) I will miss her, too.
I am thinking of as you grieve the loss of __________.
Even though I cannot be with you during this sad time, please know that I care about you and I am thinking of you. (Or, praying for you.)
I have only just heard about __________’s death. I am so sorry.
May loving memories of _________ comfort you now and in all the days ahead.
Nothing I write will ease your sorrow, but I do care about you and think of you often. I will keep you in my prayers as you mourn the loss of __________.
I hope the ideas here inspire you to express your friendship and caring as only you can.
Regardless of how you choose to express pet sympathy, your own words of comfort do not have to be profound. Your loving thoughts and the time you took to show that you care are most important.
Six Things You Can Do to Help a Grieving Friend
1. Invite your friend on a weekly walk, outdoors if the weather permits, or at the local mall. Your friend is hurting right now. Please do not ignore the loss.
2. Give a comfort package if you think your friend would like it: Fill a basket with rich bath soap or gel, sea sponges, candles, aromatherapy oils, tea, soft music and a plush towel. Include a handwritten note of caring and support.
3. Go for a scenic drive with your friend. Your destination could be a public farm, community garden, park, river walk or beach. Pack a picnic lunch. Take nature pictures because getting in touch with the beauty of the world can be very healing. Share the pictures. Select one you especially like and turn the digital picture into a framed print. Give one to your friend. Tip: Your grieving friend may not want to be photographed right now. Focus on the scenery instead.
4. Invite your friend home for an afternoon or evening. Watch a movie and have take-out food. Or, just spend some time over a cup of good coffee or tea. Allow the conversation to go where it needs to go.
5. Grief needs to be expressed outwardly for healing to occur. If your friend likes to write, buy a beautiful blank journal, gift wrap it and drop it off, or mail it. Begin the journal by writing a note of support on the first page.
6. Leave your friend alone--for a while. Sometimes the best way to help is to leave your friend alone because mourning requires a natural turning inward. Be sure to tell your friend that you would like to be together when he or she is ready. Send cards, texts, or emails, but do not be hurt if your friend ignores you or declines all offers. Instead, offer your support again in a week or two.
You are not abandoning your friend when you provide the alone time needed to heal. Use the space to read about pet loss. Or, just for today, set aside the worries of your friend and enjoy your life and your own furry friend. You will have much more to offer when the timing is right.
This is only a general list. You know your friend. Use the suggestions here to spark your own great ideas, but remember that you are not superhuman and even doing one or two special things will show your friend that you care—especially when many people minimize or ignore a person’s pet loss grief altogether.
The Guidelines of General Sympathy and Loss Apply
Be supportive, offer comfort, and do not compare your pet loss to theirs. It may be similar, but leave it up to them to make that connection or comparison. Understand that grieving is a process — one that moves at its own pace. How your friend responds to your efforts is up to your friend. If you listen and offer your sympathy and support, you are a caring friend. You have done your best. That is all you can do.
Pet Loss at Home: How do I support a grieving friend?
Funeral Wise: Pet Loss: What to Say to a Grieving Friend or Loved One
6 Ways to Say "I Care" to Friends Who Are Facing Pet Loss
What To Do When a Friend Loses a Pet
At Least: Never Say These 2 Words to Someone in Pain
When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering, and Healing by Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.
A simple and eloquent book of compassionate advice with spaces for personal recollections and photos.