Having a beloved pet is a joy. Losing it is deep sorrow. Any pet lover knows this fact. For them, it is not just a dog or cat they lost, but a part of their family. As a friend, you must be thinking of ways to comfort them during this time. First, try to understand what they are going through.
Love for pets
If you are a pet lover yourself, you might relate very well to how losing a pet must feel. You experienced how you enjoy your pet’s company and how you do everything to care for its needs. Did you ever wonder why humans have this particular affinity with animals? Here are five explanations:
It is part of human evolution
During the evolutionary periods, humans and animals needed to coexist for survival. They both needed to thrive in an environment where they could share life-sustaining essentials such as fresh water and vegetation. Some humans distanced themselves from animals, while others stayed close. The latter has a distinct advantage, not only for survival, but also for companionship.
They are treated like babies
Because pets are almost always smaller than humans, they have been habitually infantilized by their owners. Their playful characteristics also affirm this treatment. Pets become the adorable babies of the household, whom all the family members hold dear.
Pets give happiness
Imagine coming home from a stressful day at work. Waiting for you at your door is your pet, keen to play with you after waiting the entire day finally. According to studies, spending quality time with your pets makes you feel happier and help reduce stress. This is the release of the chemical oxytocin, also known as the feel-good hormone.
Pets are dependent on their owners
Because pets are dependent on their humans for all of their needs, it triggers the latter’s protective and nurturing instincts. This instinct is usually reserved for their children. This is probably why pets are treated like children and part of the family.
Pets give the most unconditional love
Even the most profound human relationships are sometimes based on conditional love. Comparing this with how pets love their owners, theirs is truly unconditional. Especially pet dogs and birds, they are devoted to their humans and continue to love them despite their flaws.
The Stages of Grief in Losing a Pet
By being aware of the grieving process, you better understand and care for your friend. The five stages of grief give us an insight into what any person goes through in the face of a loss or any gloomy life episode. Concerning having lost a pet, the stages are:
- Denial: Denial is a coping mechanism that helps with the shock of loss. During this time, your bereft friend might imagine still seeing their pet at home, playing with its toy.
- Anger: Anger comes next when reality sets in. Your friend might misdirect their anger towards something or someone. They might blame someone as the cause of their pet’s death.
- Bargaining: A grieving person has feelings of guilt and helplessness. Your friend might say things like they’ll do anything to see their pet one more day, or hear them bark, purr, or sing, etc. They will try to get through this vulnerability by bargaining.
- Depression: Depression is when sadness creeps in. This stage is when a person who is mourning sees themselves and how they feel about the situation. When they acknowledge their pain, healing begins.
- Acceptance: Acceptance is the last but most challenging stage of the grieving process. Accepting means understanding the finality of the separation from the lost loved one. When your friend accepts their loss, they will see the silver lining. They will be thankful for the time they spent caring for their pet.
Ways to console someone who has just lost a pet
Everyone grieves differently. The stages outlined above are dynamic and fluid. For some, the sequence might be spot on, but for others, they can skip, overlap, repeat, and collide. Whatever you do, try to be what your friend needs you to be. You can also:
Give them time
Stay at your friend’s side and listen. Give them the time to grieve in their own way at their own pace. Validate their feelings. Let them cry or let them be. Don’t rush them into being okay. Never force them to accept their loss. Processing the death of their pet takes time.
Send sympathy notes or flowers
Offer your sympathy and support. If they need time alone, send them something special to say you care. A sympathy note or flowers with your sincere condolences will suffice in the meantime. Writing about a pleasant memory about their pet will also be comforting.
Watch what you say
If you own a pet like your friend, you’ll know what to say and what not to say by empathy. However, if you have no idea what having, much less, losing a pet means, then be careful with your words. It might be hurtful to tell your friend to get over it, move on, or get another pet.
There is no need to say much. Please give them your condolences and tell them that you care. Share a positive thought or memory you have of their pet. Listening to them is also a good idea if they need to release their emotions.
Volunteer with your friend at a local shelter
Being in the presence of other animals might be a good idea for your friend. If they are ready, offer to go with them. Volunteers are always welcome at the shelters to help take care of the animals. Doing this is also a meaningful way of honoring their pet by caring for another animal.
Do something special in honor of your friend’s pet
Depending on your friend’s wishes, offer to do something special for their beloved pet. It is nice to make a memorial donation (in their pet’s name) to an animal-oriented charity. Your friend might also appreciate having a tree or shrub planted in their yard in honor of their pet.
Offer to host a memorial service for the pet
Make sure that you do the planning with your friend to specify what they want to include in the program. Memory stones are decorative stones that your friend can put in their yard or garden in memory of their beloved pet. Having a memorial stone made for the pet is a beautiful gesture. Ask your friend to personalize it. There are various types of memorial stones that you can choose from.
Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorials can provide you with customized pet memorial stones for your beloved pet. For more information, you can contact us through our phone number 208-253-4557, our toll-free number 1-866-276-2548, or send us an email at [email protected]