Pets are more than just animals. They are our family members, best friends, confidantes, and adventure buddies. Our pets are there for us during all the highs and lows of life, offering unconditional love, comfort, and support every step of the way. Because they play such an influential role in our lives, it can be especially painful when we lose them.
Aside from the deep sadness you’re experiencing, losing a pet can also bring on complicated feelings. Maybe you’re feeling judged for being so upset over the death of your cat, or perhaps you’re having trouble imagining how you’ll go on without your dog by your side. It’s tough. The loss of a pet can leave a void in your life that perhaps you weren’t expecting. Even if it wasn't your furry or feathered one that passed on, the loss is still devastating. And navigating how to support others after their pet’s death can be tricky, too.
So how do you cope? And how do you comfort a friend who has lost a pet? Just as with any loss of life, the grief process takes time.
Below we’ve provided you with ways to navigate this difficult situation. We offer advice for dealing with your own pet’s death and provide sympathy messages for the loss of a pet that you can send to those coping with a loss.
How to cope with the loss of your pet
Dealing with your own pet’s death can be a heartbreaking experience. While it may be a difficult journey, follow these tips to help yourself heal.
Give yourself space to grieve
Coping and overcoming loss is not something that happens overnight or within a few days. The flood of tears may kick in immediately after losing your beloved bird, or the sadness may set in more gradually. Don’t rush it. Take the time to process what happened and give yourself time to heal, whether that’s for days, months, or even a few years.
Understand that we all grieve differently
Your husband might seem to have gotten over the death of your dog within a day, while you can’t pull yourself out of bed. Everyone processes death at different speeds and on their own terms. Some people like distractions, while others prefer to focus on the loss. Try to avoid comparing yourself to others and let yourself grieve in whatever way feels right for you. And above all, don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel.
Treat yourself kindly
You might want nothing more than to curl up in a ball and cry for days on end. Or maybe you want to go a mile a minute, refusing to think about the loss of your pet. Whatever route you take, be kind to yourself. Slow down, cook healthy meals, hydrate, exercise, and get some fresh air. Grief can do a number on your body, so it’s important to stay healthy and strong.
Be mindful of your other pets
If you have other pets in your household, chances are they are grieving, too. Pets can also pick up on your emotions, causing them additional distress. Try to uphold your regular routines to maintain a sense of normalcy while giving them extra love and exercise. Spending more time with your pets can also help boost your mood and spirits.
Be sure to keep a watchful eye on your pets during this difficult time. If your animal stops eating, refuses to play, or exhibits unusual behaviors, speak to your vet for advice, as your pet may be depressed.
Reach out to others
Avoid bottling up your feelings. Speak to your friends and family members about what you’re going through. Did your best friend know and love your dog as much as you did? Reminisce over happy memories together. Or perhaps your cousin’s cat recently died. Maybe she can offer words of sympathy for the loss of your pet based on her own experience. Talking to your loved ones can be extremely cathartic during the healing process.
Memorialize your pet
Creating a legacy provides you with a way to celebrate your furry or feathered one. Design a scrapbook filled with your favorite photos of your pet, host a memorial service, and consider burial options. You may want to scatter your pet’s ashes in their favorite spot, place them in an urn, or look into a memorial forest.
How to express sympathy for the loss of a pet
It’s not easy watching a loved one suffer from the loss of their pet. To offer your support, follow these suggestions.
Send a sympathy message for the loss of a pet
How do you express sympathy for the loss of a pet? Well, it’s not always easy knowing what to say to console a friend or family member who is hurting. However, it is important that you offer your condolences in some shape or form, whether that’s sending a card or giving them a call. To help you get started, choose from one of these sympathy sayings for a loss of a pet and let your heart take care of the rest:
- “I saw the way you loved Skip, and it was clear he loved and cherished you, too. I’m thinking of you and sending all my love your way.”
- “You gave Biscuit the happiest home where you showered her with love. She was very lucky to have you. I’m so sorry you’re going through this difficult time, but I’m here to support you.”
- “I will always remember June’s wet kisses and cuddles. I, too, will miss them dearly. You are not alone in your grief, and I’m always here to talk or listen.”
- “My deepest condolences to you during this time. I know how much Murphy meant to you. I’m always here for you.”
Ask them what they need
Everyone deals with the loss of a pet in different ways. Your friend may want you to spend time talking about all the good times you had with her dog, or your brother might wish to go out for ice cream as a distraction. Sometimes being direct and asking how you can help is the best way to provide support. When asking, you just may even discover they need help with logistics, such as sorting out burial options or planning a legacy. Whether you lend an ear or help make plans, your support will mean more than you know.
Avoid undermining their feelings
Everyone is entitled to mourning their pet’s death. Even though you may not understand their connection with their pet, that doesn’t mean you should underestimate their sadness. Whatever you do, avoid saying, “It was just a pet,” as this can come off as insensitive. When in doubt, turn to one of the above sympathy messages for the loss of a pet or simply offer to listen.
Memorialize their pet with a gift or donation
A little gift can go a long way. Create a customized present with the pet’s name or photo, so your friend will have a memento to cherish forever. Or, consider donating to an animal shelter or pet organization in the pet’s name.
Whether you are grieving over your pet or expressing sympathy for a loved one, everyone deserves the time and space to celebrate the life of their beloved pet. For more ways to offer your support during these difficult times, explore these alternatives to saying sorry.