A recent study has found that the loss of a pet can be just as devastating as the loss of a family member. Anyone who has ever endured the death of a pet can surely relate to these findings.
When trying to comfort a friend who has recently lost a fur-friend, there are many things you can say that will bring comfort…and many things that will only make things worse. Consider the following five tips:
1. Don’t Overthink It
Simply saying “I know you must be feeling awful right now. I am so sorry” lets your friend know that 1) You see their pain and 2) You are hurting because they are hurting. Of course, you can offer more complex condolences, but if you are struggling to come up with the right words, remember it’s always safe to say “I am so sorry.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid To Admit It Sucks
A recent study from Stanford found that Americans tend to avoid negative states of mind more than other countries. For example, our condolence cards have more positive phrases than other countries, presumably because we might be less comfortable accepting and addressing negative events. However, when you are going through a dark period, sometimes the most comforting thing can be when a friend simply says, “This is terrible” or “It just doesn’t feel fair.” So don’t feel like you have to be a Pollyanna, searching for the silver lining in your friend’s loss. Just be the comforting friend who can frankly admit, “This really sucks.”
3. Beware Of Flippant Remarks
To a friend who has recently lost a dog, a remark like “all dogs go to heaven” could actually feel more hurtful than soothing. If your friend is deeply religious and holds that spiritual belief, it may bring comfort but, otherwise, it can feel like a bad attempt at a joke.
4. Say “You Took Such Good Care Of Him/Her”
When you lose a pet, you can sometimes end up blaming yourself. Even if they die of old age, you always wonder, “Was there something I should have done differently?” or “Could I have made their last days better in some way?” It can be very consoling to hear a trusted friend say, “You were so good to her” or “She couldn’t have asked for a better owner.”
5. Remember Them
After the first wave of condolences comes in on Facebook, people tend to forget about their friend’s loss, especially as time passes and life gets busy. However, just because your friend stopped talking about it doesn’t mean it no longer hurts her. A good way to show your friend that you care and that you remember their pain is by sharing a story or a photo of their beloved pet. Maybe you could frame a sweet picture you have on your phone of your friend snuggling their dog, or you could share a funny memory you have from when their dog was still a puppy.
What do you think? What brought you comfort (or pain) when you were dealing with the loss of a pet?