A dear friend of mine recently said goodbye to her own dear friend, her dog of 14 years. As a dog lover myself — with my own elderly — my heart breaks for my friend. But I know just what she is feeling. Except for a few brief stints in college and when I lived overseas, I have had the good fortune of having a pet in my family almost my whole life. But that also means that I have had to say goodbye to my fair share of cats, dogs, fish and even a few rabbits. It never gets any easier, but it does help when friends and family step in and offer support.
Here are a few ways you might be able to help a friend who has recently lost a pet.
Listen. Offer your condolences and give your friend a place to talk about her pet. Let her laugh, cry, and share stories as she remembers her friend.
Send cards and flowers. The loss of a pet is a devastating feeling — as painful as the loss of a family member. Acknowledge your friend's loss and let him know you are thinking about him by sending flowers or a card as a gesture of sympathy and kindness.
Make a donation in honor of the pet to a local animal organization. Bereaved pet owners may feel comfort from the fact that their beloved pet's memory will be honored by helping other animals in need.
Help around the house. The loss of a pet disrupts your entire daily routine, so it's not uncommon for people who have recently lost a pet to have a hard time making dinner, taking out the trash, or running errands — particularly if those activities remind them of their departed friend. If you're able, drop off a freezer-friendly meal, or ask if you can pick up something the next time your headed to the store.
Don't suggest another pet. Never, under any circumstances should you suggest that your friend rebound from her recent loss by getting another pet. Even if you think an appropriate amount of time has passed. Some folks take months to recover from the loss of a pet; some take years. Trust me, when and if your friend is ready, she will bring up the topic with you.
The most important thing you can do for a friend who has lost their pet is to love and care for them. Show extra kindness, listen when she feels like talking, and give her space to grieve when she doesn't. It will take time, but with a strong support system, your friend will heal.