What to say (and what to avoid) when comforting someone grieving a pet

Mar 17, 2024
What to say (and what to avoid) when comforting someone grieving a pet. Source: Getty Images.

For a lot of people, pets are just as special as a family, offering unconditional love and companionship.

As anyone whose pet has crossed the rainbow bridge knows, the grief from the loss can often be overwhelming and having support during this difficult time makes a world of difference.

However, as someone watching a loved one grieve the loss of a pet, it can be hard to find the right words that actually bring comfort.

So, in a bid to help offer words of comfort, here are some things you should and shouldn’t say when someone you love loses their beloved companion.

Things you should say

 1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It might seem like the obvious thing to say here, but acknowledging your loved ones’ grief is always a great place to start, especially if you have no idea what to say.

This shows them that you understand their pet was more than just an animal to them, and lets them know you’re sympathetic to their grief.

 2. “Would you like to talk about them?”

This is a great way to help your loved one remember their furry friend and bring a little bit of light into this dark time for them.

Talk to them about the things you loved about their pet and any cute or funny stories you have about them, honouring the life they lived that brought your loved one joy.

Try to encourage your loved one to share stories and memories of their pet as well, as this can be a therapeutic experience to help in the healing process.

3. “It’s okay to feel sad and take the time to grieve.”

It’s completely normal and valid to grieve after losing a pet.

Assuring your loved one that it’s okay to feel such strong emotions can help allow them to acknowledge just how much their companion meant to them, preventing the grieving person from keeping their feelings bottled up.

Grieving often isn’t accepted well by the world around us, and people grieve in different ways, so be sure to let them know that whatever they’re feeling is okay (and that includes feelings of anger).

4.  “Your pet brought so much joy and love into your life.”

This statement can help your loved one celebrate the cherished moments their beloved pet brought them in life.

Sometimes, people can feel guilty or embarrassed about grieving the loss of a pet, thinking that others won’t fully understand just how much their furry friend meant to them.

By expressing the understanding that their pet brought joy and love into their life, you’re showing them their feelings are valid and that their connection with their pet was significant.

5. “If there’s anything I can do for you, please let me know.”

By offering a helping hand, you can help take the burden of dealing with the loss of a pet and show your loved one how much you care for and want to support them.

If your loved one takes you up on your offer, this can involve helping to arrange for the removal of the body and any funeral or memorial plans they might want to do to honour their pet.

What not to say

1. “It was just a pet.”

Saying this phrase to your loved one minimises any emotions they might be feeling and prevents them from fully accepting the grieving process.

Remember, people grieve differently and this dismissive response can make your loved one feel like you don’t care about their loss.

2. “It was going to happen eventually.”

While this statement might be true, pointing it out isn’t helpful.

Your loved one definitely knew the likelihood of outliving their beloved companion and telling them the obvious doesn’t diminish the pain and grief experienced when they pass away.

The life and joy your loved one shared with their pet can make this loss just as devastating as losing any loved one.

3. “You can always get another pet.”

You might be trying to find a silver lining in this tough situation, but saying this to someone grieving can feel insensitive to what they’re going through.

While some people do choose to adopt another pet, it can take time for some to warm up to the idea, and implying their beloved companion is replaceable can make your loved one feel like their pet wasn’t valuable.

However, if your loved one does decide to adopt a new pet following the loss, remember, everyone mourns in their own way and it’s not your place to judge.

4. “They’re in a better place now.”

Your loved one probably worked hard to ensure their pet had a great life, and offering this statement takes away from the wonderful life they had shared.

While this statement often comes with good intentions, when someone is grieving the loss of a pet, it can feel like you’re minimising the very real emotions they’re going through.

Saying their beloved companion is in a “better place” doesn’t acknowledge their pain and implies their mourning isn’t necessary.

5. “You’ll feel better soon.”

Grief is such a complex process. It’s unpredictable and there are no set rules or timelines for the healing process.

This statement can pressure your loved one to rush through their grieving process, minimising their emotions over the loss of such a strong bond with a beloved companion.

Telling someone they’ll “feel better soon” can also make them feel as though the emotions they might be feeling are invalid and unnecessary.

Remember, when a loved one is grieving the loss of a pet, it’s always best to offer understanding and reassuring support, allowing them to feel their emotions and aid them in their healing journey.


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