Pets aren’t just pets to the typical pet owner. The most important thing is to be considerate! Most people who don’t have pets don’t understand how devastating it is to lose a pet. However, the loss has been compared to losing a family member in studies.
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- What to say
- What not to say
- Send a condolence card
- 7 examples of sympathy messages to send
- How to comfort someone over text
- Other ways of supporting someone who has lost a pet
In one such study involving 2000 pet owners, 71% of female pet owners reported bereavement as devastating as that of losing a relative. 55% of men in the study compared the loss of a pet to be as devastating as human death.
Considering pets tend to have a shorter life expectancy, the typical pet owner who happens to have several pets in a lifetime is bound to suffer greatly over time. The loss is comparable to losing close loved ones over time. However, individuals who don’t have pets may not realize this fact.
Most pet owners share intense love with their pets, comparable to a bond with a member of the immediate family. For them, it's not just a cat or dog but a beloved member of the family who brings unmatched fun, companionship, and joy to the family. As a result, you should respond as you would when dealing with a person who lost a family member.
Death is inevitable, and everyone is bound to lose a family member or friend in their lifetime. You may be among the few lucky ones if you haven't experienced the passing on of a close family member. If you have, you can relate to what a person feels when they lose a beloved pet. If you haven't experienced this and/or you aren't an animal person, how should you react?
To avoid being offensive, there are things you should/shouldn’t say. When your friend loses a pet, this isn’t the time to let them know you are not a pet person. Here are effective tips to help you respond accordingly.
1. Say Sorry
This should be your first initial reaction when your friend tells you they have lost a pet. Saying sorry or offering your condolences is the safest initial reaction. Before you ask anything else, you should be sensitive to those who are grieving by saying sorry. Let's face it; it's easy to say the wrong thing after a loss. To be on the safe side, say sorry first or offer your condolences. These are safe initial reactions even if you didn't have the chance to meet the pet. It is hard to offend a pet owner if you acknowledge their pain first.
2. Consider Offering A More Complex Condolence Message
It's advisable to avoid overthinking after saying sorry. Since one statement may not do much for a grieving pet owner, you should consider offering more complex condolences. However, don't overthink! Say something like, "I can't imagine how you are feeling right now". You can acknowledge their pain by saying you are really sorry. However, don't struggle to do this if you can't come up with the "perfect" words. A simple sorry is better than statements that are overthought and don't originate from the heart.
3. Admit It “Sucks”
Death "sucks" and there's nothing wrong in admitting this. While most people may try to have a positive mindset when dealing with matters like death, admitting the reality can be more comforting. You can say something like, "this is terrible" or "it sucks". Such statements are more comforting since they frankly admit the state of affairs. However, don't be caught up in the negativity.
Sometimes the best thing to say is to say nothing at all. Most people have no idea what to say to a grieving person and that's fine. You don't have to force a conversation or remarks that you can't seem to find. In such an instance, just listen.
Sometimes a simple sorry and your presence is enough. If you can’t find something to say, stay silent. This tip is particularly important if you don’t consider yourself a pet person and can’t possibly comprehend why the loss of a pet is a big deal. Even in cases when a pet owner appears to be overreacting, keep your opinions to yourself. Your presence, support, or help is enough.
5. Ask A Question
Questions should come at a later stage after saying sorry and listening. However, don’t push it. If your friend isn’t giving you details, you should be fine with it. You should accept the answers you receive and offer as much support as possible. Prying for answers will only add pain to their loss. While it helps to talk about things that bother a person, the initiative to talk about those things should come from the source. Talking about a loss can help; however, it should occur naturally without pressure.
For instance, if you knew the pet was sick, you can ask about the sickness. However, be satisfied with the answer you get. What’s more, don’t ask this question right away. You can also lighten the mood by asking about naughty and funny moments about their loved one. However, be wary about making jokes. There’s a thin line between joking and offending when it comes to grieving.
6. Remember The Pet And The Owner’s Role
You can talk about how you met the pet. You can also remind the owner of how caring they were to their pet. You can talk about the toys the owner bought for their pet or the cool posts they made online. This tip is about making the pet owner know they did their best for their loved one. Domestic pets like cats and dogs depend on their owners for survival. This explains why pet owners feel guilty when they lose a pet. The loss can be equated to failure on their part, so it helps to assure them they did their part.
One way of doing this is by remembering the good experiences the pet owner gave their pet. This isn't the time to point out what more could have been done to avoid the loss. Say something positive that assures the pet owner of their unmatched care. If the pet owner had to make hard decisions like putting their pet to "sleep" after a long illness or failed surgery, assure them that they did everything they could and made the right decision.
7. Refer To The Pet Using Their Name
To avoid being insensitive, avoid referring to the pet as “the cat” or “the dog”. It is insensitive to grieve with a person without acknowledging the name of the pet they have lost. All pet owners name their pets. So, it’s important to find out their dog or cat’s name first. If it’s a friend who has lost a pet, you should know the name of their pet. If not, find out! Failing to acknowledge a pet by their name is as upsetting as saying the wrong thing.
8. Share A Picture Or Memory On Social Media
Sometimes you don't need to say something to a person face-to-face. Sharing a picture or memory on social media is good enough. If you can't grieve with your friend in person, sharing fond memories on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform is thoughtful. Such messages show you understand and support a grieving person.
Besides helping them remember the good times, they'll also take heart knowing their pet gave joy to others. The picture can be accompanied by a thoughtful sentence like "rest well" or any other thoughtful message that may/may not be linked to the loss. A simple message like "fun times" accompanied by a picture is good enough.
9. Donate To A Pet-related Organization Or Cause
A donation to a dear cause related to the pet owner or their pet is equally, if not more thoughtful. If you want to go beyond what most people do, you can help grieve the loss of a pet with a kind gesture like donating to other needy animals.
This tip is particularly helpful if a pet died of an illness that affects other pets. Donating to support a cause or a local shelter is a strong message of support. In fact, the gesture is enough on its own that even if you don’t say anything else.
We’ve highlighted what you should say (in words and actions) to someone who has lost a pet. What about the things that you shouldn’t say! If you want to avoid offending a pet owner who is dealing with the loss of a pet, here’s what you shouldn’t say:
1. He/she Is Better Off
It doesn't matter if the pet was suffering while alive, you shouldn't allude to the fact that the pet is off dead even if it appears to be the case. To a pet owner, the best place for their pet is right next to them. Saying "your dog is in a better place" won't help given grieving, and rationality hardly goes hand in hand.
2. When Are You Getting Another Pet?
You can't replace a beloved pet, even if you get another pet. To a pet owner, a pet is irreplaceable even if they'll eventually get one. To avoid offending the memory of a pet owner, think of pets as their children. If you can't make such a statement when your friend loses a loved one, you shouldn't make the same statement when your friend loses their pet!
3. It Was Just A Dog Or Cat. Get Over It!
This is another insensitive statement you shouldn't say to someone who has lost a pet. Different people grieve differently. The same way you would give a person time to come to terms with the loss of a loved one is the same way you should deal with a person who has lost a pet. As mentioned above, pet owners form very strong emotional connections with their pets (comparable to human-to-human connections). It is heartless to dismiss such pain.
4. I Felt The Same When I Lost My Pet
While letting a person know that you understand how they feel sounds like a good thing, it may not be as productive as you think. You should be subtle about your own pet loss experience; otherwise, you risk making the current loss about you and your pet as opposed to your friend's current loss. Comparing losses can make your presence feel like a grieving competition. Just mention you lost a pet and leave it at that. If they want to know more, let it come from them.
5. Your Cat/dog Is In Heaven
Although this may be a good thing to tell someone who has lost a pet, it may be interpreted as a bad joke. Different people have different beliefs about the afterlife. Such a statement can, therefore, do more harm than good. If you are saying it to someone who is deeply religious and holds such beliefs, it's OK. Otherwise, such a statement won't be received well.
Even with all the tips discussed above, it may be a daunting task finding something to say when someone loses a pet. That’s where pet condolence cards and sympathy notes come in handy. You can make or buy a pet sympathy card. If you are making one, there are some great ideas you can explore. Remember to use the pet’s name and any of the sympathy messages ideas we have listed below.
Example #1:"Dear Becky, I am shocked to hear about the loss of your amazing dog. I know he meant the world to you, your family, and special friends who got to meet him like myself. I am here for you. Love Angelina."
Example #2:"Dear Kate, I just got the news about your loss. Your dog was very sweet and lovable. I remember how much you did for him and how he loved you and everyone who crossed his path. You can count on my support. Call me anytime! With Sympathy, Nancy."
Example #3:"Hey Tom, It sucks losing such a beloved companion. May the fond memories you made give you comfort and peace. Love, Jenny."
Example #4:"Hey Ben, (Pet name) has been a part of your family for such a long time. I loved the joy he brought to your family. Take care and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Jeff and family."
Example #5:"Hey Kate, I can’t find the words to express my shock. I can remember the memories I shared with you and (pet’s name) vividly What a great companion you had! I am here for you. With love, Kim"
Example #6:"Hey John, You are the reason I searched for my own furry companion. You had such an enviable relationship with (pet’s name). Hold on to the memories. Wishing you peace and comfort in this trying time. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need anything. Love, Kerry."
Example #7:"Hey June, A pet is a beloved friend and family member all in one. The loss of (pet's name) can't be easy, but you can count on me in this trying time. Everyone who was lucky enough to meet (pet’s name) will definitely have those memories close to their heart. What a great dog. My thoughts go out to you and your family. Love, John"
While there are better ways of sending someone a condolence message today i.e., a social media post, it's the thought that counts. A simple text message such as "Wishing you comfort and peace during this time" or "I am deeply sorry for your loss. (Pet's name) will be missed" is adequate.
There are many other ways of supporting a loved one, true friend, or family member who is grieving the loss of a pet. Besides sending a pet condolence card or text to someone who has lost a pet, you can also send them a pet memorial gift, a plant, or flowers to help ease their pain. You can also help them get professional help to deal with their grief.
If you are thinking of getting a pet memorial gift to help your friend remember their furry companion we can help. We offer a variety of custom pet gifts that can help put a smile on any pet owner's face in a difficult time.