Supporting a grieving friend or family member

If you have a friend or family member that is experiencing grief following the loss of their pet, you may want to read through our pages Feeling of Loss and Coping with Grief.

It’s very normal to be upset by a pet’s passing. Each individual will experience grief in a very personal way but there are some common themes. If you can look out for any of these signs and support your friend or family member as they go through it, it will help, even if you don’t really understand what’s happening. If you’ve had or have a pet yourself, then you’ll recognize the very deep ties that come with pet ownership. If you’re not a pet owner, then you can still give comfort; many of the feelings of pet loss are similar to those we experience when we lose a human friend or family member.

Some things not to say:

  • Don’t think about it, you’ll only upset yourself
  • I know how you feel (while we may identify with what they are feeling, no-one will feel exactly the same as you did; let your friend or family member reflect on their own feelings)
  • Get over it, it was only a pet

Things to practise or say:

  • Reflective listening; listen to your friend, think about what they have said and paraphrase it, saying it back to them, “I can see that this has really upset you…” “You say that this is the most upsetting thing you’ve ever experienced, I can see that they were very special to you…”
  • Let your friend know that they can cry if they want to; hugs are the order of the day.
  • Let them talk through everything they are feeling; or if they want to sit in silence and reflect, that’s Ok too. Let them know you are there for them, whatever way they want to express themselves. 

If you feel that your friend or family member’s grief is going on for longer than expected or is interfering with their carrying-on of daily routines and day-to-day activities, then they may need extra help or support.