The bond each of us shares with our pets is a unique and special one. They give us love and companionship, bring joy and make us laugh, and comfort us when we’re feeling down. Pets enrich our lives and become part of the family.
So it’s therefore no surprise that when a pet is no longer part of his or her owner’s life – whether due to death, being lost or needing to be rehomed – people can experience the same level of grief as they would at the death of a close relative. Unfortunately, not everyone understands this grief, and it can be a very lonely experience without the right support.
Life, once filled with the love and friendship of a pet, may suddenly seem very empty. Feelings of despair, loneliness and even depression can be overwhelming. There may also be a strong sense of guilt and self-doubt, particularly when a decision has been taken to euthanise or rehome a pet. These feelings are normal and a testimony to the special bond between people and their pets.
But there are simple things that friends and family can do to help others when they are grieving for a pet. It may help you in providing support if you have experienced the loss of a pet yourself, but many people find it difficult to know what to say and worry about getting it wrong. Either way, it will help to bear in mind the following:
- Take time to listen and allow them to talk
- Show you understand what they are telling you
- Try and see things from their perspective not your own
- Do not suggest getting another pet. They will mention this if they feel ready to. Their pet was unique and cannot be replaced, in the same way a human family member couldn’t be.
- Encourage them to share happy memories of their pet. They might also find comfort in writing a tribute to them in the memorial section of our website.
- Tell them about our Pet Bereavement Support Service, which can offer free and confidential support to those who have lost a pet
- Remember that everyone grieves in different ways, and for different lengths of times – between weeks, to months and in some cases, years
Our Pet Bereavement Support Service is a free confidential phone and email service providing emotional support and information to those who have lost a pet. To make contact call 0800 0966606 (lines open every day 8.30am – 8.30pm) or email [email protected]