The saddest part of owning a pet is saying goodbye. The grieving process is painful and it can be hard to express to others how you are feeling, particularly if they are not pet owners. We know not everyone understands but these are the things you should never say to someone who has lost a pet.
It’s just a….
…cat, dog, rabbit, horse, hamster, fish, bearded dragon, etc. Or the even worse “it’s just a pet”. It is NEVER just a pet. These are family members we are talking about and by playing down their importance you are implying that their grief is less valid. Many people share an extremely strong bond with their pet and losing them is just as devastating as any other loss. A recent survey of UK pet owners found that “89% believe the death of a canine or feline companion is just as difficult to handle as the passing of a loved one.”
You can get another one
Another of our least favourite phrases when it comes to pet loss. Pets are not replaceable. Yes, it’s likely that most of us will end up with other pets in the future, but these are not replacements for those we have lost. Every animal has a unique personality and creates its own bond with their family.
Get over it
Bereavement of any kind is a process and realistically you will never get over it. It’s more likely your feelings will change over time but you will always feel the loss. Telling someone to just “get over it” is not helpful. Instead, why not ask if there is anything you can do to help?
I know how you feel
This is a tricky one as we’re all prone to projecting our emotions onto others. You may have lost your pet but that doesn’t mean you know how the other person is feeling. Think about how you felt when you were grieving and if there’s any support you think could have helped you. Simply giving the person time and space to talk about how they feel is much more beneficial to their grieving process than talking about your own experience.
Do you really need to take time off work?
Taking time off work, or any other activity, following the loss of a pet is a controversial subject. But it shouldn’t be, after all, you are mourning the loss of a member of your family. Instead of questioning whether they should be taking time off, why not help find ways to support the bereaved person in returning to work. Trying to ‘get back to normal’ too quickly can be damaging and prolong the grieving process.
You will forget in time
Anyone who has lost a pet knows that you don’t forget. Your feelings may change and things get easier, but the memories stay with you forever. This is not a bad thing, in fact being able to remember your pet fondly is a sign you are healing. Don’t let people dictate how long your grief should last or how you should be feeling at any point following the loss.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone handles grief in different ways, and sometimes all they need is someone to listen. If you are worried about someone remember there are services available to help them through the bereavement. Cats Protection have a Paws to Listen phone line, and the Blue Cross offers a Pet Bereavement Support Service. There are also many private pet bereavement counsellors who can help. You can find more information about pet bereavement support on our website here.