What to say and not to say to someone when they lose a pet.
by Neal Kellum, Founder and President of Pet Cremation Services
Losing a pet is devastating, and grief is a natural response. After all, a pet is a member of the family.
It can be really hard to move on from that heartbreak, and it definitely takes time. If you know someone who has lost a pet, you might be wondering how to console them. Even if you don’t know what it’s like to lose a pet, you can still be sympathetic and compassionate. There are certain things you can say to affirm and support your friend. There are also things you should avoid saying, so that you don’t minimize their loss. Below, we’ve identified some helpful things you can say — and highlighted a few things to never say — when a friend or family member has lost their pet.
What should I say?
Talking about grief is never easy. The most important thing, however, is to be present and understanding. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is simply listen. Let your loved one talk about their loss and grief however they want to. Don’t pry if they don’t want to share too much information. Regularly check in with them to make sure they feel loved and supported. But if you’re looking for the right words to share your sympathy, here are some things you can say to someone who is grieving their pet’s loss:
“I am so sorry for your loss.”
Offering someone your condolences is a good way to let them know that you care about them. It can also affirm their grief.
“Barkley was such a sweet dog, and I can’t imagine what you’re going through.”
Always use a pet’s name when talking about them, rather than saying “your hamster” or “your cat.” A pet is an important part of the family, after all. Using their name is a small courtesy you can extend to your loved one. It’s also important not to assume you know how someone feels when they’re grieving. Saying, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now” conveys that you understand the magnitude of the loss they’ve experienced. It also gives them space to talk about what they’re feeling.
“I’m here for you, if and when you need me.”
When someone is grieving a loss, it can be hard for them to reach out for help and comfort. They also might not know exactly what they need. Saying something like this lets them know that you will be there for them whenever — and however — they need you to be.
“Your feelings are valid. You and Buttons had such a strong connection, and you really cared about each other.”
If your friend is open to talking about their grief, saying something like this makes it clear they are in a safe place to do so. By saying this, you’re letting them know that grieving the loss of a pet is a normal, human thing to do.
What should I avoid saying?
“When are you getting another pet?”
You might say this with the best of intentions. However, a question like this might make it seem as though a pet is replaceable. If you lost a family member, how would you feel if someone asked you when you were getting another one? The same idea applies to pets. They may not be human, but the grief a person feels when they lose a pet can be similar. Your friend likely loved Roley, and getting another hamster won’t necessarily make their pain go away.
“It was just a dog. At least you didn’t lose a child.”
A pet isn’t material property. Pets are living, breathing members of the family. For many people, their pets are actually like their children. A statement like this is not only insensitive, but also dismissive of how much a pet might have meant to someone.
“Your pet was really old and/or sick! At least they’re in a better place now.”
Even if it’s well-intended, this type of comment might just make a pet owner feel worse. Suppose a dog was old or sick when they passed. Their human likely spent a lot of time taking care of them, and had many memories with them. Saying something like this is callous at best. After all, what if “a better place” was “still alive, at home with me”?
What else can I do?
Offering your sympathy, listening patiently and affirming your loved one’s grief are all good things to do. There are also a few other things you can do to show your support. If your friend is open to it, you could share a fond or funny memory you have of their pet. You could also send them a condolence card and flowers. Checking in on them on notable days, like the anniversary of the day they adopted their pet, could be helpful as well. Ultimately, what matters the most is that you show your loved one that you’re there for them in whatever way they need.
Losing a pet is one of the most difficult things to go through.
Our pets are our children, best friends and dearest companions. If someone you know loses their beloved pet, be gentle and kind. Allow them to feel what they need to feel. Remind them that they have your support every step of the way. Help them out with day-to-day tasks. Just remember — anything you say should center and affirm your loved one’s needs.
For more information on what to do when a pet dies, reach out to Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater today.
If you have questions, call us at (757) 340-0016.
For over 30 years, Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater’s experienced staff has provided compassionate, quality cremation services for pet families in and around Hampton Roads Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina. We are a local, family owned and operated company.
You can trust Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater to keep your pet in our local care until you are ready to bring them home.
Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater is centrally located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We are right off Bonney Road near Rosemont Road.