For many, pets are beloved members of the family. The bond we share with our furry friends is unlike any other, and losing a beloved pet can be an emotionally devastating experience. This void in their household can be profound, with the effects felt for years or even indefinitely.
Our dear colleague at GiftGood, Shee Mun, recently went through the loss of her beloved pet. And it was indeed an emotionally challenging journey. "Losing Woffles was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences for my family and me earlier this year. When Woffles was with us, I used to say that I couldn't imagine life without him. It's been 10 months since he left us, and while life keeps moving forward, I've learned to navigate my grief and its highs and lows. The waves of sorrow still surprise me, sometimes in the quiet of the night when I miss his presence on the floor, or in the midst of a bustling market when I find myself reaching for fresh food for him without thinking," she shared.
Supporting a friend who is experiencing the loss of their pet can be a challenging task, particularly if you haven't faced such a loss yourself. The key to comforting your friend in this situation is to step into their shoes, see the world from their viewpoint, and acknowledge their emotions.
This guide will assist you in knowing how to be there for someone who’s lost a pet, whether it’s sitting down and listening or helping them find a positive outlet for their sorrows.
What not to say
Saying the wrong thing can lead to hurt feelings and sour some of the closest relationships. The strong point here is to understand that pet loss is not trivial; it's a genuine and valid source of grief. In your efforts to console a friend who's lost a pet, it's crucial to avoid saying things that could unintentionally invalidate their feelings or add to their pain.
- "You can always get a new one." This dismisses the unique connection the person had with their pet.
- "It's just a cat (or any other pet)." As mentioned previously, using "just" belittles the significance of the pet.
- "At least your pet had a good life." This can minimise the grief by implying that the loss shouldn't be as painful.
- "Pets don't live that long anyway." Suggesting that the pet's lifespan was short doesn't take into account the strong emotional bond that can develop.
- "You should be over it by now." Telling someone when they should stop grieving is unhelpful and callous.
- "Time heals all wounds." While time may help, it doesn't erase the pain, and this phrase can come across as dismissive.
What to say in person, over text or write in a sympathy card
Expressing your condolences and acknowledging the importance of their pet is a simple but powerful way to show empathy. Let your friend know that it's perfectly normal to feel the pain of losing their pet deeply. Grief is a natural response to loss, and it's essential to validate their emotions. You can use these examples in person or through a heartfelt sympathy card with a personalised message — it can be a simple yet profound way to express your support and care.
- "I'm so sorry for your loss. I know he/she meant a lot to you, and I'm here for you."
- "I remember when your pet [share a specific memory], and it was evident how much you two meant to each other.
- "I can only imagine how much you're hurting. It's okay to grieve. Don't rush it, and take all the time you need."
- "Is there anything I can do to support you during this time?"
- "If you ever want to talk about your pet, share stories, or just need a shoulder to cry on, I'm here for you."
What to do to show your support
Your words of comfort can make a significant difference, but actions speak even louder. Here are some practical ways to support your friend or colleague during their time of grief over a pet loss:
Ask Them What They Need
Grief is a highly personal experience, and different individuals require different types of support. Some may want to talk about their pet, while others may prefer quiet company. Ask your friend what they need, and respect their wishes.
Organise a Memorial
Help them plan a small memorial service or gathering to celebrate their pet's life. This can provide closure and an opportunity to share memories.
Offer to Help with Funeral Arrangements
If your friend is unsure about how to handle their pet's remains, offer to assist with making arrangements for cremation or burial.
Help with Daily Chores
During a period of mourning, daily tasks can feel overwhelming. Offering to assist with chores, such as cooking, cleaning, or grocery shopping, is always a good idea.
Offer Compassionate Leave for Pet
At GiftGood, we have an official pet compassionate leave policy for our team members. If your organisation doesn’t have this in place yet, advocate for compassionate leave for pet loss. Losing a pet can be just as devastating as any other personal loss, and having the option to take time off to grieve is an essential form of support.
Cover for Work
If your colleague needs time off from work but can't take leave, offer to help them by covering some of their work responsibilities. This gesture shows that you understand the gravity of their grief and are willing to assist practically.
Create a Keepsake
A personalised photo frame with a picture of their beloved pet can be a touching and lasting tribute. Every time they look at it, they'll be reminded of the cherished moments they shared.
Send a Comforting Gift Box
Consider sending them a Fur-ever friends gift box — a thoughtful curation for those in the midst of pet loss, or build a personalised solace gift box for them. Even if you can’t be there in person, this gift box can encourage the grieving person to take small steps toward healing and finding moments of peace.
Losing a pet is a profound, yet often underestimated source of grief. When comforting a friend who's lost a beloved pet, remember to acknowledge the impact of their loss, be cautious about what you say, and offer your support both in words and actions. Your empathy, understanding, and thoughtful gestures can help ease their pain during this challenging time.