What to do when someone you love loses a pet
By: Stephanie Di Traglia
Eight months ago, two of my nearest and dearest friends made the difficult decision to end the suffering of their beloved fur baby Kleo. Kleo’s final days were filled with all her favorites; car rides for ice cream cones, splashes at the dog beach, hours of fetch and countless cuddles. At the end, we held each other under the shady trees of their beautiful backyard and said goodbye on her yoga mat. They are among the greatest pet parents I know, going above and beyond and sparing no expense for all their pets. This wasn’t fair, and it was too soon. The decision was the right one, but the accompanying grief was excruciating.
As a natural caretaker and a ‘solutions gal’ when I see a problem I want to fix it. When I see a loved one aching, I want to eliminate that pain. I want a magic wand filled with all the right words, but our role as a companion is not to take away their pain or have the right answers, because in truth, there are no right answers.
So, what can we, as friends and family members do in times such as these? It’s tempting to offer phrases such as “don’t feel bad, you did everything you could” or even the well-intended story of your own experience with loss. But the true role of a companion is to simply “be”, and listen with your whole self; to offer a safe place for mourning, free of judgement and allow them to navigate their own unique healing journey. As companions, we can answer the phone without saying a word when the tears need to freely flow, or hold a hand while lighting a candle and sharing special memories. It can also mean helping to ensure your grieving loved one is not neglecting basic elements of physical self-care such as eating and sleeping. Help them honor their story, but remember not to make it your own.
For more suggestions in the honorable role of companion, you can turn to our grief literature “Helping a Friend in Grief”.
In loving memory of Kleo, rest easy baby girl. We love you so very much.