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Do’s and don’ts for comforting a grieving pet parent

Losing a beloved pet is devastating.

It’s important to be mindful of what to say or not to say when a pet parent has lost their furry baby.

I, unfortunately, had to say goodbye to three wonderful dogs, Oscar, Katie, and Duquesa. When I lost Oscar, about seven years ago, a week after saying goodbye to him, I went to work and I wasn’t myself. One co-worker, in particular, noticed and I told him “I put down my dog last week.”

He replied, “It was just a dog,” and laughed. 

I’ll never forget those words or who said them to me.

The wounds were so fresh, my boy who I lived with for 17 years was no longer there, routines were different, the house was quieter, and quite frankly I was feeling alone because no one was really understanding the pain I was going through. 

Oscar was not just a dog. He was the family companion, the one that loved giving us kisses, my teddy bear who I cuddled at night.

He wasn’t just a dog. 

Oscar

Grief can be very complex. It’s important to approach someone in grief in a sensitive way.

I have put together some helpful tips on what to say and do and what to avoid saying and doing when someone has lost their furry baby. 

What not to say

1. He was just a dog.

Their rabbit, dog, cat, or horse was a family member. They represented unconditional love, their rock, their best friend. Their beloved pet was there for them during their highs and lows. So it wasn’t just a dog; he or she was a family member. 

2. You can always get another.

No, you can’t always go and replace him or her right away. To some pet parents, it might take a long time. Let them do it within their own time. And remember, their pet was not a material possession, it was their unconditional love. 

3. You haven’t moved on yet?

Grieving can be different for everyone. There is no right or wrong way to process grief. That is why being sensitive to the matter is important. Offering them a shoulder to cry at their difficult moment might just be the best you can do. 

4. They were old anyway.

Just because their pet was old, it doesn’t make it any easier for them. The situation can still be very traumatic if not more so, considering how long they were together. 

Fred

How better to comfort a grieving pet parent

1. Send a sympathy card.

Do you know the odds of someone receiving a sympathy card when they lose their pet? Pretty close to zero. A heartfelt note makes a lovely gesture to someone in grief. It shows that you are thinking of them in this difficult time. 

Lucy

2. Help them find pet loss grief support.

There are a lot of organizations out there that can help with pet grief support. Reach out to veterinary clinics or shelters. They often can provide and guide you with the right information. Sometimes all people need is a hand to help them with their healing process.

3. Listen to them.

Sometimes all they need is a shoulder to cry on and to tell stories of their beloved pet. Be there for them, listen to them talk and hug them. 

3. Donate to a shelter in their pet’s name.

What a beautiful gesture, donating in a deceased pet’s name. You are helping another pet that is in the shelter and also keeping their precious pet’s memories alive. 

There are no perfect words to ease their pain, but showing comfort and support is the best thing you can do in their difficult time.

I hope you found these tips helpful.

Sharon Canovas is a natural light photographer from Hamilton, ON Canada. Voted Giggster Top 5 Best Pet Photographer from Hamilton, ON, and won Platinum Award for best service by Hamilton Spectator, Reader’s Choice. She is focused on capturing meaningful moments of you and your furry baby and turning them into timeless artwork, helping you preserve beautiful moments.

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