Perhaps one of the most important things you can do is be sympathetic. Don not dismiss the grief a friend feels as something inconsequential. The loss of the loving companionship of a pet feels just as painful as the loss of another person.
It is often difficult for others who are not pet owners, or who have never lost a beloved pet to understand the grief someone feels when their companion dies. Personally, I have been a lover of dogs and cats since I was a child and I can tell you that the unconditional acceptance of such pets has no equal in my other personal relationships.
Look at the relationship between a pet and its owner as you would the relationship between a person and their best friend. Yes, pets quickly become our best friends.
When someone loses a pet they lose a friend. They lose the one being on earth that they can share their feelings with, talk to, without judgement or fear of having their feelings ridiculed or worse, shared with others.
The loss of a pet may mean loss of a companion who was an only contact. For many older people, a pet may be the only daily interaction they have. It is possible that, for some, the care of the pet is the only reason for getting up in the morning.
If you are not a pet owner this may be hard to understand. But we don't always have to understand why someone feels grief to show sympathy and support.
While it is common to suggest the person acquire a new pet, this suggestion should not be offered lightly. After all, how would you feel if you lost a close friend and some well-meaning person suggested you just go get a new friend?
A few years ago I lost my mother, 3 dogs, and a cat within 3 months of each other. Let me tell you, the grief I felt for the loss of the pets was just as great as I felt over losing my mom. The idea of getting another dog or cat would send me running for the nearest dark room for a full-blown crying session.
What made it even worse was that the dogs were all over 16 years old and one by one I had to take them to be put to sleep. This was a horrendous experience.
Eventually I did get another dog and I love him just as fiercely. He is not a replacement, as such, but a NEW friend to enrich my life. His personality is totally different from that of any dog I have had before.
When someone you know loses a pet, treat that loss as you would the loss of a person your friend cared deeply for. Offer your sympathy. Call to talk and encourage them to tell you how wonderful, silly, or faithful their pet was. Talking about those we have lost helps us heal.
In time your friend may begin to express a wish to get another pet, and if so, then you can help them talk through their feelings. Remind them that, just as with a lost loved one, their
Coping with the death of a friend's pet is something that we, as friends, should be ready to do, even if we do not have pets of our own. Be supportive, compassionate, and non-judgemental and you will help your friend cope with their loss and move on to a new relationship with another wonderful pet in the future.
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For more information, you might enjoy reading my book, More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase paperback on Amazon.com. It's also on Amazon as an e-book for those who have Kindle or Sony Readers. The audio book is now available!