Guidelines for Helping
- Be physically and emotionally present for support. A simple touch on the shoulder, holding hands or hugging will let the bereaved know they are not alone. It can be especially difficult for the single person living alone who lost their only pet. Home is now a reminder of their loss and loneliness. Being available to help with meals and small errands in days and weeks immediately following the death may be especially helpful.
- Allow the bereaved to express their grief and emotions without judgment of fear of rejection. It is essential to the healing process to allow the person(s) to talk, cry and review their lost relationship. Encourage them to talk and be willing to listen. Encourage them to identify, express, and accept their feelings.
- Assure them that grieving is natural. It will be especially helpful to calm their fears and embarrassment at the level of their grief. Our society today does not really validate the grief process over the loss of a pet.
- Be sure to encourage self-compassion. There truly is no time table to be feeling or not feeling a certain way.
- Express your feelings. Show your genuine concern. Share your feelings also, especially if the loss affects you.
What To Avoid
- Do not measure their loss, do not compare or demean.
- Do not tell the griever, “you should”, feel better because they may have other pets still alive.
- Do not tell them not to cry!
- Do not encourage them to acquire another pet right away as a solution to their grief. A new pet does not “replace” a lost one and the bereaved may need time to complete their grieving process before they are able to accept a new pet companion.
- Do not discourage the bereaved if they DO want to acquire another pet soon after their loss. For some people, focusing their energies on a new, healthy pet can be a very positive step in moving forward.
- Do your best to not allow the griever to isolate themselves.
- Do not be alarmed if the person continues to talk about the loss repeatedly. This process is essential to the healing process.