When someone close to you loses a pet there are things you should and should not say to help them while they are mourning.
Here’s the list of things you should never say to anyone who is grieving:
1. How old was he? While it may be an innocent question, it sort of implies a gradient of allowable grief depending on the age of the pet. Three? Tragic. Thirteen? Well, he was old, so it’s not quite so sad.
2. Aren’t you over it yet? Clearly, they’re not. Making a person feel like there is something wrong with them for feeling sad will only force their sorrow into isolation.
3. Come on, it was just a dog/cat/bird. I can get you another one this afternoon. A pet is not a yoyo, an easily replaceable object. Nor is the pet a human, but that does not mean the attachment the person felt to their pet wasn’t just as deep, nor their grief easier to bear. And that individual will never be replaced.
4. Too bad you didn’t try fish oil/more chemo/crystal therapy. Second guessing what a person did in the days leading up to a pet’s passing serves no purpose other than to add guilt to what they’ve already piled on themselves.
5. My dog had cancer too- all of my dogs! And my hamster! While it’s human nature to want to empathize through sharing similar experiences, beware of the Pain Olympics- being the person who has to turn someone else’s grief into their own, and then top it.
6. He’s in a better place. The only place we wanted him was here, with us.
Here’s the list of what you should say to someone in mourning:
1. I’m so sorry for your loss. Simple, right?
2. My favorite memory is: I love this one. Share a memory, something their pet did, or how their fur felt, or how they always leaned up against your leg. It is so lovely to have another person share with you an impact, no matter how big or small, your pet had on them too.
3. (Silent hug) If you can’t think of any words, just go for the hug. It is another form of powerful acknowledgement.
4. Take as long as you need. Grief is not a straight line that decreases in a defined percentage each day. Think of it more like a receding tide, waves roll in, then go back out, then roll up again, and pull back, a little bit further each time.
With any hardship, there are good days and bad. If you are the one mourning or know someone who is and you or they break down at the pharmacy or at work, just remember, this is just how it is and it IS OK!
Do you have any additional tips on how to comfort someone in mourning?