What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving The Loss of a Pet

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As a society, we are not equipped to handle grief and loss, and many people don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving.  This can be compounded when the loss is that of a pet.  Even people who are genuinely sorry and want to express their sympathy often don’t know what to say to comfort the grieving person.

It is difficult to know what to say, and as a result, people often, without meaning to, say the wrong things that, rather than providing comfort, only serve to upset the grieving person even more.   Sometimes, the best thing to say is to simply acknowledge the loss – because the only thing worse than saying the wrong thing is to not say anything at all.   As I’m dealing with my own grief about Amber, I’m once again reminded of how much some of the things people say hurt, even though they’re offered with the best intentions.

I know how you feel.

Everybody experiences loss differently.  While we may have lost pets ourselves, we can’t know how the grieving person feels, because each pet and each relationship is unique.

Saying something like “I, too, have lost a pet, and I remember how awful it feels – my heart goes out to you”  instead acknowledges the griever’s feelings without being presumptuous.

It will get better or time heals all wounds.

Grieving people know this on an intellectual level, but they sure don’t feel that way, especially not in the early stages of grief.  Trite phrases like these only serve to minimize the loss and the very real pain the grieving person is feeling now.

Acknowledge the grieving person’s sadness and pain without diminishing their emotions by suggesting that they’re only temporary.

She’s in a better place now.  It was probably for the best.   It was God’s will.

Any variation of this will not be helpful to someone who’s grieving.  Even if their belief system supports this, they’re not going to find comfort in these words, and they may, in fact, serve to emphasize their pain.

Even if the grieving person believes that our animal friends never really die and that their spirits live on, any of the above phrases, directed at them in the middle of profound sadness, invalidate the very real pain of missing the lost pet’s physical presence.

Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

This is a classic, and natural, response to grief – we feel helpless, and we want to help the grieving person.  However, people who are grieving don’t think straight, and usually don’t know what they need help with, and reaching out or asking for help often requires more of an effort than they can handle.

Offer to do something concrete instead, such as bringing a prepared meal to the grieving person, or running errands for them.  If you know the person very well and you think it would be acceptable, stop by to check on them.  Otherwise, call them, but accept that they may not want to answer the phone.  Leave a supportive message, and check back again a few days later.

It was only a pet.

I find it hard to believe that some people are still saying this – it is callous and uncaring, even coming from someone who’s not an animal person.  I’m fortunate that the majority of people in my life are animal people, so I’ve not heard this one personally, but I’m being told that it still happens more than you would think.

When are you going to get another one? 

Not quite as shocking as the one above, but equally inappropriate.  Grieving pet parents know that getting a new pet can never replace the lost one, but getting a new pet after a loss is a very individual decision – everyone’s schedule is going to be different.  (Read Life after Loss – Getting a New Pet for more on this topic.)

Don’t cry.

Most people are uncomfortable in the presence of others who are crying.  It is painful to see someone you care about cry, but by telling them not to cry, you are prolonging the grieving process for them.

Tears heal and are part of the natural grieving process.  One of the best things you can do for someone who is grieving is to let them cry in your presence.  Offer comfort, but don’t make them feel that it’s not okay to cry.

There is no “cure” or “solution” for grief – it’s an individual journey.  Navigating through the grieving process is difficult not just for the person who is mourning a loss, but also for those around the person.  The best thing any of us can do for someone who is grieving the loss of a pet is to set aside our own discomfort with death and loss and gently support them in their grief.

69 Comments on What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving The Loss of a Pet

  1. Marianne Colarossi
    August 3, 2014 at 8:42 pm (5 years ago)

    I just lost my four month kitten. The first thing a friend said was “when you’re ready,

    Reply
  2. Cecilia
    July 28, 2014 at 5:35 pm (5 years ago)

    I lost my 17 year old cat last year, and a couple of months later I lost my part-time dog. I was very comforted when a friend, also a dogowner, met me in the street, and he knew about my grief, and he said,” It will get better Cecilia”. It warmed me like nothing else. Might be strange, but I knew he knew and aknowledged my pain and the grief I had to work through. And hearing it will get better, not now, but one day, made me feel hope. Tonight in the park, I met him with only one German Shepard, and knew he had to have to say goodbye to his second dog which I knew had a heart disease.

    I can’t see anything wrong with feeling compassion when someone loses a familymember, and I can’t see anything wrong with saying and showing you are there for the person by saying, “let me know if I can do anything for you”. For me hearing those words from friends when I grieved, made me feel less alone, knowing I do have them, when I need them. As I have a lot of friends with dogs and cats themselves, and this being the first time I lost a pet, I was comforted by hearing them say ” I know what you are going through” and hearing their stories of grief. I found that there is a lot of respect from other people when they hear of a pet dying.

    I don’t think one should judge other people’s social skills in time of grief, I believe they do what they can do show compassion, even if they don’t know the exact correct word och frasings that will set of that person.

    So when I met my friend in the park today, I let him know that I felt for him and his loss, and I know that he is in great pain, and will be for a long time. But he knows he has a friend who remembers his beautiful dog, and is there for him if he needs it.

    Reply
  3. Annie. Pippin
    July 28, 2014 at 3:30 pm (5 years ago)

    P.S. Our kitties are why I was on your site….3 of them are Torties, and the oldest one, Molly, “belonged” to Isaac, our heeler who got cancer. He “adopted” her when I rescued her at 3 weeks old and they were constant companions. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      July 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm (5 years ago)

      Aww, that’s so sweet that Isaac adopted Molly!

      Reply
  4. Annie. Pippin
    July 28, 2014 at 3:27 pm (5 years ago)

    My husband and I love Heelers. 2 years ago, the first one we adopted together as a couple got stomach cancer. We kept him going as long as we could, but once he stopped eating, we know we could not let him starve to death. We waited until he seemed ready himself, then we took him to the vet and we both held him as the vet put him gently to sleep. It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done, but also so peaceful, and very right. We even took our other dog with us so he could be there, too, and try to help him understand why Isaac was not coming home. We let him say goodbye, and we let him be with him after he was gone. I came straight home and put up a little “shrine” of his pictures and they are there to this day, with his ashes. We still talk about him, watch his videos and never stop missing him. We have a new little female heeler and we “tell” her about Issac all the time and how she would have loved him! We know our dogs aren’t human, but they were our second children, after our own children were grown. We have rescued 8 cats, all of whom love(d) our dogs. Sometimes I think the older cats still look for him.

    Reply
  5. ACE
    July 28, 2014 at 2:04 pm (5 years ago)

    I was at my singing group 3 days after Princess died. One guy made a VERY insulting comment — I looked at him and said “What did you say? Have you never lost someone you loved?” He didn’t answer. Immediately people started taking out their wallets and cellphones and showing me photos of their kitties. I never went back there- partly becuz I was so disgusted with him and more because I did not have transportation to go there (it is NOT on the bus route) any more. But one of these days I MAY go back…… (evil non-criminal grin)

    Reply
  6. bernie spina
    July 28, 2014 at 1:39 pm (5 years ago)

    This has to be one of the most helpful of posts. It’s hard to know what to say or do when someone suffers a loss of ANY kind, and the suggestions are right on.

    Reply
  7. Kelly
    November 27, 2013 at 1:37 am (6 years ago)

    this article is frankly ridiculous for the most part. the first four things are perfectly fine acceptable things to say. One must not be made to think you have to walk on eggshells around the grieving. That is just silly. I have lost many, many loved pets over the years and in fact lost one just today, my foster cat, and have had many people say the first four things to me and I have always found it comforting.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 27, 2013 at 6:56 am (6 years ago)

      I’m glad that you did not experience the isolation, and the lack of caring, that many people feel when they loose a pet, Kelly.

      Reply
  8. Literary Feline
    November 6, 2013 at 4:21 pm (6 years ago)

    I re-read your post recently (I subscribed to the comments long ago and still get them now and then). I am in a different place now than I was then, having lost my dog and younger cat within months of each other this summer. I think the most common comment I have received over the past few months is when I am getting another dog/cat. Several people have even offered us animals. I wanted to scream at people that it wasn’t that simple. I didn’t need replacements. I was missing two very specific beings.

    With my dog, who was older, I didn’t mind the comments about him being no longer in pain or being in a better place so much because, ultimately, he was in a lot of pain when we decided it was time to say goodbye. But when it came to my younger cat, who was only 5 years old, it bothered me quite a bit. I know people are well meaning, but she died so suddenly and unexpectedly. She’d been fine one minute and was gone the next.

    I think the most comforting words offered are simple condolences and often hugs. I took my fur kids’ deaths very hard, as I knew I would. They were a big part of our family and I miss them so.

    We recently took in a kitten who has been such a joy. I was worried I wasn’t ready, but it’s proven to be the right decision for our family, including our older cat who I had been so worried about. I knew he missed his companions, and I was really torn about whether introducing him to a new cat would be a good idea. Obviously, our new family member isn’t a replacement for my lost dog or cat, but she’s won us over in her own right. I think too it’s helped me with my grieving.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm (6 years ago)

      Good to hear from you! I’m so sorry about your losses. I’m glad your new kitten is providing comfort.

      Reply
  9. Beth
    November 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm (6 years ago)

    Wonderful article, Ingrid. And like the other postings here, I am very sorry for your loss. When I lost my wonderful Calpurnia after a long illness, I dreaded hearing the “Well, she’s in a better place now” as if being with me for 16 years wasn’t good enough. Another response I would get is, and this is a line I’ll never forget: “Sorry for your loss, but you’ll be happy to know that my cat is doing GREAT!” The BEST and most helpful response I received was from friends who would send me their stories and rememberances about her. She often came to my office with me and all my friends sent great and hilariously funny stories of their times with her, even our vet sent stories (and she was a bitch to him!!). THAT to me was so helpful.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm (6 years ago)

      “My cat is doing GREAT?” That takes callousness to a whole new level, Beth! I agree that sharing stories is so helpful.

      Reply
  10. Sue
    November 6, 2013 at 1:39 pm (6 years ago)

    I had to put my baby Mica down the day after New Years because she had kidney disease. I cried for 4 days. But I was lucky in that my boss at the time understood and never said anything bad and gave me the time off to grieve.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      November 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm (6 years ago)

      I’m sorry about your Mica, Sue. What an awful way to start the year.

      Reply
  11. JanetG
    June 7, 2012 at 6:20 pm (8 years ago)

    Thank you for this. I just lost my Trixie and it was and is very hard. I know people are just trying to be kind. I hope these thoughts help people better support those grieving the loss of a pet. Very timely and intuitive.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm (8 years ago)

      I’m sorry about your Trixie, Janet. I’m glad the article helped a little.

      Reply
  12. Dianda
    June 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm (8 years ago)

    Thank you for this post, really handy!
    I shared it on my blog. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      June 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm (8 years ago)

      Thank you for linking to this post, Dianda.

      Reply
  13. Diane
    June 7, 2012 at 3:38 pm (8 years ago)

    I appreciate the article, Ingrid, as I lost my cat of 18 years, Pooh, a month ago. Unlike Robert (I’m so sorry Robert), I had the vet put her down because she had stopped eating. I couldn’t let her starve to death. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I think which ever way it goes there is a lot of guilt–could I have done more? Did I let her go too soon, too late? I’m still waiting for that to get better. The only thing I’ve found that’s helped a little is talking to two people who had also lived with Pooh, at different times. They know what a great, unique little cat she was and they remind me of how much she loved me. What surprised me the most was my best friend, who had also lost a long loved dog recently. Her response was “sorry.” When her dog died I donated $20 a month for a year to the ASPCA in her name, sent a card, the whole bit. And from her I get “sorry”? It hurts. I also kept Pooh’s blanket and sleep with it. That helps a little.

    To all that posted and have lost a pet I am sorry for your loss. I’m happy that you had good years with them, loved them, was loved by them and maybe, in the future, may give that love to another animal in need. I do remind myself that it wouldn’t hurt if I hadn’t loved her so much. I saved Pooh from the streets and she spent the next 18 years thanking me for it. I really couldn’t ask for much more.

    Reply
  14. lambertslabelle
    April 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm (8 years ago)

    I heard them all.I know all these standart-reactions come from a good place..but I agree..they dont help at all.Best is just a shoulder to cry on…

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm (8 years ago)

      You’re so right. What helps the most is someone who can just be present with the grieving person.

      Reply
  15. margaret l
    April 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm (8 years ago)

    My family couldn’t understand why I was so upset and thought I was overreacting when I lost both my cat of 19 years and my parent within 3 days.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      April 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm (8 years ago)

      I’m so sorry, Margaret. That’s an awful lot of loss within just a few days. My heart goes out to you.

      Reply
  16. clara elton sharp
    August 22, 2011 at 9:26 pm (8 years ago)

    Excellent article, and much needed for our society. Shared on facebook.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      August 23, 2011 at 6:23 am (8 years ago)

      Thank you for sharing, Clara. We have a long way to go as a society when it comes to dealing with death and dying.

      Reply
  17. Robert
    December 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm (9 years ago)

    I just lost my beloved dog Fro. She was an Australian shepherd that was vibrant and full of life. In the past few weeks she came down with a mystery illness and I watched her deteriorate rapidly. The vet said there was nothing he could do for her. I took the very best of care for her till her death. I wouldn’t let my parents euthanize her because it seemed so cruel to me, her dying in a cold vet office scared and away from home. I held her in my arms as she took her last breath. I wanted her to know that I loved her and not to be afraid. My step dad told me that I was selfish for not allowing the vet to put her to sleep. Did I do the right thing for showing her love or was I selfish by adding to her suffering? I am so sad and my family just tells me to get over it. I talked to my guidance counseler in school and she told me it was just a dog they have short lives and that this is a good lesson in loss. I just feel so sad, guilty, and hopeless I have no one to talk to who understands.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm (9 years ago)

      I’m so very sorry for your loss, Robert. I hope in time you will find some comfort in knowing that you were with Fro when she died. It takes a lot of courage to be with an animal we love so much when they take their last breath, and you were there for her when she needed you most. There is no doubt in my mind that she died knowing she was loved. We all do the best we can for these wonderful animals, and in the end, there is no right or wrong decision. It sounds like you knew Fro better than anyone else, and you knew she wouldn’t have wanted to die at a vet’s office. To me, that sounds like love, not like being selfish.

      Don’t let anyone tell you she was “just a dog.” Losing a pet is one of the hardest things most people ever have to deal with, and it can sometimes be more difficult than losing a human friend or family member. The kind of love we get from our pets is unconditional – how many humans love us that way? And when we lose that, the pain that comes with that loss can sometimes be unbearable.

      I don’t know if you read some of the other articles on pet loss on this site, there are some online resources listed in this article that that might help you feel a little less alone in your grief: http://consciouscat.net/2009/08/05/how-to-cope-with-losing-a-pet/ Also, if you stop back tomorrow, I’m posting an article on how to cope with grief during the holiday season, perhaps there will be some helpful suggestions for you.

      I know this is a hard time. I hope that in time, memories of your time with Fro will replace the pain of missing her. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself, and know that everything you’re feeilng is perfectly normal after a significant loss like this. You’re in my thoughts.

      Reply
  18. Renee
    December 15, 2010 at 10:40 am (9 years ago)

    Hi Ingrid: I’m so sorry for your loss and I too lost a very close pet friend. It was the most difficult year of my life when it happened. It’s never easy and the thing that upsets me is, the people that know how close we are to our furry friends still cancel it out as “it’s only a dog”. I don’t get that especially them knowing how close to my heart my pets are. Maybe to them “it’s just a dog” but to me they know it’s more then that so I feel it’s cold hearted. (yes I’m still a little bitter after 3 years). Also, when it happened a week had passed and I was questioned as to why I’m not over this yet and they tried to rush me through it. Again, still a little bitter. I found that ignoring them people and focusing on the supportive ones is what helped me through and I’ll never forget them for it. You will heal at your “own pace” and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You go through this process the way you feel comfortable. Everyone handles it different and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My heart goes out to you and anyone else going through this. Gracey is correct, you never stop missing them but as our human survival kicks in we find a way to cope and move on but it doesn’t mean we forget them, we just know we have no choice but to move on. It took me almost a year to learn how to cope and move on but I now think about all the good times with my little guy. I am now enjoying my new labradoodle and he keeps me busy as all heck. Boy these young ones have a lot of spunk.

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      December 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm (9 years ago)

      Thank you for your lovely words, Renee. You’re absolutely right that everyone’s pace of healing is different. I’m glad you’re enjoying your new puppy. I always think that our departed animal friends smile when we open our hearts to a new friend.

      Reply
  19. Ingrid
    September 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm (9 years ago)

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Jane. I love how you celebrated your dog’s life by making a video. I think it takes a lot more than a few days to mourn the loss of a companion, and you’ll probabyl have more of those “lost it” moments as you go through your grieving process. Be gentle with yourself.

    Karen and Gerard, welcome! Thanks for adding us to your blogroll.

    Reply
  20. Karen and Gerard
    September 14, 2010 at 7:04 am (9 years ago)

    What a wonderful blog you have here! Found you through Sparkle. This is a very helpful post! I’m going to bookmark it and tweet it but later, I’m late for work, have to run now! Adding you to my blogroll though am now a follower!

    Reply
  21. JaneA
    September 14, 2010 at 6:34 am (9 years ago)

    Would you believe I just found out about this post from Sparkle the Designer Cat’s blog, where she celebrated all the cat blog nominees for the Pettie Awards?

    Anyway, I’m totally in your “Amen corner” on this one. Having grieved the loss of several beloved cats and dogs, it still amazes me that people invalidate that grief with the “it’s just a pet” or “it’s been one day; get over it” attitude. The week before BlogPaws, our family dog died at age 15. I thought I’d done most of my grieving after a couple of days—and I celebrated her life by making a video montage with photos from her puppyhood to her old age–but one of the presenters had a service dog, a golden Lab, and Aki was part Lab and had that “Lab face,” and I just lost it again. 🙁

    Thank you, Ingrid, for writing this post.

    Reply
  22. Ingrid
    June 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm (9 years ago)

    Thanks for your comment, Michael. I agree – small talk can be very difficult to deal with for someone who is grieving.

    Reply
  23. Michael O'Donoghue
    June 20, 2010 at 7:49 am (9 years ago)

    Great Post Ingrid. Always a difficult topic. I always try to acknowledge the person’s grief and pain and affirm them as pet owners. Some of the mistakes I see are people trying to engage in small talk, like talk about the weather, or even just asking how are you?, when it is very obvoius they are feeling rotten.

    Reply
  24. andrea
    June 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm (10 years ago)

    relate..and i do care..
    didn’t want it to sound like it was “all me”–i didn’t mean it that way..i just..sorry if i sounded selfish. never meant it that way, i just..i wrie dum,b stuff and …love reading all u write..and..need to b quiet-i always ..well..just..this was so well said…
    ok/..no more

    Reply
  25. Ingrid
    June 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm (10 years ago)

    Of course it’s okay to print this out, Andrea – I’m glad you were able to relate.

    Reply
  26. andrea
    June 12, 2010 at 2:48 pm (10 years ago)

    i can’t recall-but i may have mentioned my loss/es. if so–i ..am glad to read this page. it is good to really know. i am printing this (hope that is ok)? i didnt yet-if i hear from you saying not to print–i won’t…otherwise..i hope i am not doing wrong.
    this helped me.
    i think we all feel others hurt in a profound way sometimes…..but must remember-it is NOT our grief AT the time you lost amber and NOW.
    i personally related to all of this in my own way—hope “that” is ok to let you know.
    anyway..
    ((hug))

    Reply
  27. Ingrid
    June 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm (10 years ago)

    Wendy, I think it’s still better to ask if there’s anything you can do than to not say anything at all.

    Debbi, I agree that remembering that everybody deals with things differently is really important when it comes to grief.

    Reply
  28. Debbi Docherty
    June 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm (10 years ago)

    Great post Ingrid. I always struggle with what to say and not to say. I hope I haven’t said any of these things! I always try to keep in mind that we all deal with things differently but not rushing the grieving process and letting people cope the way they need to is so important. You get a book vote from me also.

    Reply
  29. Literary Feline
    June 9, 2010 at 10:27 pm (10 years ago)

    Thank you for the reminder, Ingrid. I remember most of the phrases to avoid, but sometimes fall back on one or two–especially the one about letting them know if there’s anything I can do . . .

    I think it’s especially hard when the loss is an animal because not everyone gets how precious and important our animal companions are in our lives.

    Reply
  30. Ingrid
    June 9, 2010 at 6:13 pm (10 years ago)

    Janet, you are so right – as time goes on, and as the initial phase of grief passes, the bereaved may need even more support, and most people assume that the person has moved on, so it may be even harder to come by then. I love the last sentence in your comment – so true.

    Reply
  31. Janet Dobbs
    June 9, 2010 at 5:19 pm (10 years ago)

    Dear Ingrid – Thank you for writing such a wonderful and much needed article.
    Like you, I too know what it feels like to be the recipient of such comments.

    Because of my experiences, I have tried to be thoughtful of the words that I use when someone else is going through grief but I fear I have been guilty of at least one of the above, including “if there is anything that I can do to help, let me know”. You put that so perfectly. Thank you for also making suggestions of what might really be helpful.

    It is good to keep in mind that as time goes by, the person is going through the different stages of grief and might need a friend even more.

    Here’s to your future book!
    Here’s to my new workshop.

    Thank you for all that you do.
    Here’s to the amazing kitties that have been in both of our lives that are in spirit now. We are blessed.

    We can not hurt that much if we did not love that much.

    Reply
  32. Ingrid
    June 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm (10 years ago)

    Amy, I’m sorry about Floyd. You’re right, even if things don’t always come out right, it’s more important that people acknowledge the loss than not say anything at all. It is hard to find the right words, and I think the right intention always comes through, even when the words aren’t always the best ones.

    Layla, I actually think losing a pet can sometimes be harder than losing a human because of the lack of understanding around the issue. Things are changing, though, and maybe some day, we, as a society, won’t be so afraid of addressing these topics. Thanks for the purrs.

    Reply
  33. Layla Morgan Wilde
    June 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm (10 years ago)

    Ingrid, this struck a chord. Death is an awkward subject. No one wants to face it, but having a dialogue helps pave the way to better understanding. People blurt out thoughtless things sometimes out of nerves or ignorance. I’ve always said losing a beloved four-legged friend or family member is as hard as losing human. Slowly, in our society things are changing towards greater awareness and compassion. All we can do is light the way. Sending purrs of thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  34. Amy & The House of Cats
    June 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm (10 years ago)

    Hi Ingrid, I don’t post here much (I am a lurker), but I had to thank you for this. I know that I am terrible with this – and am sure I have said these things, even though I know that they aren’t what the person needs to hear – I just want to say something to let them know I am thinking of them and trying to support them. I went through this with my parents, and I do have to say that it is easier to accept these types of sentiments after going through it a few times – I have come to understand that people are trying to be understanding and helpful and just don’t know what to say. Now, the don’t cry and it was just a pet things – those are just insulting, but the first few – you do begin to accept that for the intention behind it even if the words aren’t the right ones. Even though they may not be the best thing I did so appreciate everyone who let me know these things when our boy Floyd passed last year. It is especially hard when it is a comment on a blog – because you want to (at least in my case at least) let them know that you are genuinly sad for their loss, it just is hard. I am sad every time I read about an animal passing (heck, I am teary typing this now) and I genuinely feel bad for the ower and for the pet who had to leave us – it is just so hard to find the right words and sometimes I just know I sound like an idiot – but I do want them to know I am thinking about them and wishing them the best.

    This is a great article – it really does help people who aren’t going/haven’t gone through a loss to understand what the person is feeling. Thanks so much for posting it.

    Reply
  35. Ingrid
    June 9, 2010 at 11:41 am (10 years ago)

    Tammy, thank you – considering how this post seems to really resonate with a lot of people, perhaps there really is a book that needs to be written.

    Mason, I do believe that even people who say “it was just a pet” don’t actually mean any harm, but it still seems hard for me to accept that they wouldn’t be more sensitive than that. Sounds like another vote for a book from you, too!

    Daniela, you’re absolutely right, most of these thoughtless comments are made because people don’t know what to say, and not because they mean any harm. Thanks for posting the link to Jewel’s article.

    Gracey, thank you. You are right, life does go on, but for the person who has lost a loved one, be it pet or human, it will never be the same.

    Thank you, Ellen.

    Tracey, I’m sorry about your loss. 21 years is such a long time, and yet, it’s never long enough. I love the idea of the photo book you made for your mother. I think your analogy of would people say “get another one” to someone who lost a child is absolutely accurate – for many of us, our pets ARE our children, and losing them feels no less devastating than losing a human child.

    Bernadette, you’re right, we do need to learn how to become more comfortable with death and loss. It’s always been th oddest thing to me that something that is such an inevitable part of life is something that makes people so uncomfortable.

    Laura, wow, that’s a harsh comment, even though I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way. It goes back to what Tracey said – nobody would make this comment to someone who lost a child.

    Jennifer, thank you. It’s all about feeling supported, isn’t it? That’s what we need most when we’re going through grief.

    Cindy, I’m sorry about Noelle. What your family did for you is wonderful. One of the things that can be so difficult when you lose a pet is that there are so few people you can talk to and share memories of your pet with, especially if you live alone.

    Marg, the Hope Center sent a clay imprint of Amber’s paws home, since they knew I would be having her put to sleep later that day. I had declined this with Buckley when they ese asked whether I wanted one at the crematorium, but I’m really glad I have the one of Amber’s paws. And another vote for a book!

    Danielle, I’m actually getting ready to write a review of Sid’s book for The Conscious Cat. I found it very comforting.

    Reply
  36. Danielle Denhardt
    June 9, 2010 at 11:28 am (10 years ago)

    Ingrid – Have you read Sid Korpi’s book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss”? It’s really an excellent book on the subject of grieving a pet and how others can provide comfort to the griever. Her site is : http://www.goodgriefpetloss.com/.

    Sending hugs…

    Reply
  37. Marg
    June 9, 2010 at 10:31 am (10 years ago)

    Ingrid, that was such a great post. I have never seen this subject addressed before and it really needs to be addressed and you have done a super job of doing it. We all deal with grief in different ways as you said. A wonderful thing was done for me when I lost my wonderful Squeaky, and that was the vets made a clay imprint of her paws with her name on it. Little things like that helped me but don’t know if it would help everyone.
    I too vote for a good book written by you about this subject. It is really needed.
    Have a super day. Treats for Allegra.

    Reply
  38. Cindy
    June 9, 2010 at 10:04 am (10 years ago)

    Another excellent posting Ingrid, thank you. When I lost my Noelle last year I saw that people sometimes fumbled to find the right words to say. I think they were afraid of upsetting me more than I already was. What actually ended up meaning the most was my family and friends who sat down and sent messages and included funny or silly things Noelle had done. I took all of them and put together an album of pictures, momentos and messages and still look at it frequently. And, in the end, whiile we pet-people know there are so many wrong words to say, it’s always hard to find the right ones.

    Reply
  39. Jennifer Schulting
    June 9, 2010 at 9:58 am (10 years ago)

    Great article. Support—that’s all I needed when I was in this situation…….

    Reply
  40. Laura
    June 9, 2010 at 9:30 am (10 years ago)

    This is an excellent post Ingrid. I have had these things said to me, and I know that the spirit in which they are said is meant to be supportive. Especially for non-pet owners, they truly don’t often know what to say. Here’s one that I got after my beloved cat Mr. Boober died: “Well at least you still have two other cats!”

    But I truly believe that unless someone is owned by a pet – or pets – they just can’t quite understand the connection, the love, the devotion, and the friendship. And that’s what can easily lead to not quite saying the right thing. Yes, it is hard to hear such things when you’re grieving, but I have tried to just understand why it was said… and to tell myself that they are trying their best to say the right thing to me.

    I’ll be sharing this article. Thank you for writing it.

    Reply
  41. animalartist
    June 9, 2010 at 9:27 am (10 years ago)

    For most of human history illness and death was a part of everyday life and we grew up learning how to respond. In today’s society it’s held at a distance and put in its place in our lives, and we aren’t necessarily taught how to deal with grief in ourselves or in other persons because it seems wrong or bad and just something to be gotten over and forgotten. This belittles how we felt about our lost love, human or animal. What’s worse is to say nothing and just wait until “it’s over”. Feeling the loss means we felt the love. We need to relearn this.

    Reply
  42. Tracy Ellis-Maxwell
    June 9, 2010 at 9:23 am (10 years ago)

    In January, we lost our 21 year old feline fur kid. He had been with us since he was 8 weeks old. A friend made a contribution to a local animal shelter in his name. We received the card from the shelter letting us know. It really touched me.
    When my mother lost her 15 dog (my little brother), I made her a photo book filled with pictures of him throughout the years. She keeps in on the coffee table in her living room.
    Three years ago when our 16 year old dog died, people kept trying to get me to get another dog. It took me two years years before I was ready. If someone’s child died, would they run right out and adopt one? Everyone is different and people need to respect that, especially when someone is greiving.

    Reply
  43. Ellen
    June 9, 2010 at 9:15 am (10 years ago)

    An excellent posting. Thanks so much for sharing. And may I also extend my sympathy to you over the loss of Amber,

    Reply
  44. Gracey, The Tiniest Tiger
    June 9, 2010 at 8:52 am (10 years ago)

    Great post, Ingrid. I agree that most people mean well but may be at a loss of words and uncomfortable in and around the grieving process.
    My least favorite comment is “it gets better” or “time heals all wounds”. Well not exactly. Life does go on and you adjust to your life without your loved one, but your life is never the same.

    Take good care, Ingrid. I am so sorry for your loss

    Reply
  45. Daniela Caride
    June 9, 2010 at 8:40 am (10 years ago)

    Very thoughtful article, Ingrid. As you said, people say many of the things above, such as “I know how you feel” or “let me know if I can help” because most times they are as helpless as the person who is grieving. They don’t mean harm, of course. They don’t know what to say or how to say it.

    Reply
  46. Mason Canyon
    June 9, 2010 at 8:36 am (10 years ago)

    Very helpful post. It is hard to express our concern to others when they are grieving whether it’s from losing a human or animal family member. It is hard to believe that say will still say, “it was only a pet.” Clearing these people don’t have a close relationship with their four-legged family members.

    I think Tammy is right. A book on addressing others’ pet loss is needed.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

    Reply
  47. Tammy J. Banks
    June 9, 2010 at 7:22 am (10 years ago)

    Excellent post as usual, Ingrid — I still see a very important book on pet loss taking shape here.

    Reply
    • Carol Giambri
      February 23, 2011 at 3:30 pm (9 years ago)

      Always hard losing a pet and being a dog over for over 40 years never has it been easy. However I knew I was a great owner of all plus all were adopted who were all sugar and spice to my world. Because of my dog’s recent recovery from recovery my site is up. I just posted a guest bloggers reflection on grief relevant to children and family. She’s a doctor and great read plus informative.

      Reply

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  2. […] What Not to Say to Someone Who Is Grieving The Loss of a Pet | The Conscious Cat consciouscat.net As a society, we are not equipped to handle grief and loss, and many people don’t know what to say to someone who is grieving. This can be compounded when the loss is that of a pet. Even people who are … […]

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