How to Comfort a Grieving Pet Owner

Three Parts:Supporting a Grieving FriendOffering a Gift or MementoUnderstanding What Your Friend is Going Through

Many people experience intense grief over the loss of a beloved pet. It can be hard to know how to help someone who is going through this kind of loss. There are several things you can do to offer support and comfort to a friend who is experiencing grief over the death of a pet.

Part 1
Supporting a Grieving Friend

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    Let your friend talk. In any process of grieving, the most important thing is for the bereaved person to have an opportunity to share her feelings. Your friend should feel free to talk to you without being judged or given unwanted advice. [1]
    • Let her take the lead, but give her plenty of opportunities by checking in on her frequently, inviting her over for dinner, going for a walk together, or getting coffee. Don't force talking about the deceased pet, but if she seems to want to talk about the pet, let her know you will not get tired of listening.
    • Be prepared for the unexpected. Some people grieve by not talking about their loss at all; other people repeat the details of the pet's death over and over in extreme detail. You might think you know how your friend will respond to death, but you may end up surprised. Similarly, your friend might grieve silently one day and then weep all day the next.[2]
    • Try not to compare your friend's loss to anything in your own life, or to make their sorrow about you by talking about your own troubles. If you don’t know what to say when someone is grieving, often just saying that you love your friend and will support her through this time is enough.
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    Spend time reminiscing. Sometimes people who lose a pet feel a very deep sense of loss as if they had lost a child. They might want to talk about the pet all the time. Follow your friend's lead; if she wants to talk about her pet's life, be prepared with stories and memorabilia.
    • Bring over photos or other mementos of the pet.
    • Share a post on social media about how much the pet meant to you so that your friend will see your support. Include a photo or a funny story if you have one.
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    Ask her what she needs. Your friend is experiencing the loss of a partner and friend and may not be able to do her errands, chores, or other daily necessities without breaking down in tears. Ask her what she needs you to do to support her.[3]
    • Also keep in mind that many people experiencing intense grief will not be able to articulate their own needs; their minds are often preoccupied with loss and sadness. Think about your friend's daily life and fill the needs you can. Bring her coffee, bring in her mail or newspaper, offer to do her laundry or housekeeping, offer to pick up her kids from school; anticipate her needs if you can.
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    Offer to cook a meal. A meal is a classic way to support anyone who is going through a hard time or grieving. Find out what your friend likes to eat and bring something healthy and comforting.
    • Casseroles and other one-pot meals are often a great choice because your friend can freeze half of it for later. In fact, you might prepare extra and freeze a portion for her.
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    Find resources in your area. If your friend's grief seems overwhelming or you don't know how to help, locate professionals or services in your area that can support her. It is important that you don't force these types of services on your friend, who might not want to utilize them; instead, just find the applicable numbers or meeting times and leave them with her.
    • Increasingly, community centers, libraries, and churches offer support groups for pet bereavement; you can search online to see if there is one near you. Some veterinarians even offer grief counseling.[4] Offer to attend with your friend to give your support.
    • There are also therapists and psychologists who specialize in bereavement and pet loss, especially for companion animals.
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    Keep on supporting her. Remember that grief is an unpredictable process, but she will always miss her pet even if she seems fine. Keep checking in on her and spending time with her over the long haul; that's just what good friends do.
    • Consider marking on your calendar the pet's birthday and day of death, so that you can be prepared to offer extra support when those anniversaries come around.[5]

Part 2
Offering a Gift or Memento

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    Send flowers or a card as soon as you hear. It is a classic and beautiful way to tell someone that she is on your mind and that you are aware of her grief. Sometimes just having grief acknowledged can be helpful.
    • Let her know you are thinking of her. A simple card that says "I'm thinking of you and (pet's name) today" is enough. Don't offer empty platitudes like "The pet is in a better place," or "You will feel better soon."[6]
    • Some flower delivery services offer special bouquets in memory of a lost pet. Check to see what is available from your favorite florist.
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    Make or buy a personalized gift. Depending on your budget or artistic skills, there are several ways you can create a small memorial for the beloved pet, which will show your friend that you care and that the pet will not be forgotten.
    • If you are artistic, consider painting a portrait of the pet. You can also commission paintings of pets for reasonable prices on websites like Etsy or from local artists.
    • You could also consider making or purchasing a dog memorial stone for your friend's garden. These are available for purchase at pet stores and online, and often come engraved with the pet's name and dates of birth and death.
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    Do something in the pet's honor. Think of a random act of kindness or a gift to a charity that would mean a lot to your particular friend or her pet. This is a great way to ensure that the pet's legacy continues to make an impact even after death.
    • For example, if her pet loved children, you might make a donation or spend time volunteering with an organization that trains therapy dogs for children. Or maybe she had a favorite park where she loved to bring the dog; consider donating to the park to build a bench or dog run, planting a tree, or spending time volunteering at the park to pick up trash.
    • Send a card or letter to your friend and include a beautiful, handwritten note explaining what you did in the dog's honor.
    • You can also make a donation in the pet's name to your local humane society.[7]

Part 3
Understanding What Your Friend is Going Through

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    Know the role that the pet played in your friend's life. It can be hard to understand what your friend is going through, especially if you do not have pets yourself. But psychologists have identified several key roles that pets often play in the lives of their owners, especially companion pets like cats and dogs:
    • Pets can fill the same psychological role as a sibling, partner, or child.[8] While that might seem extreme, any pet lover can tell you that the human-animal bond is deep. Losing a pet is very similar in many ways to losing a loved one of the human variety.
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    Watch for health issues. Besides emotional and social benefits of owning a pet, scientists have found that pet owners often experience health benefits as well, including lowered blood pressure, lower levels of anxiety, and lower cholesterol.[9]
    • Owning companion pets can reduce rates of depression and increase seratonin and dopamine levels, which increase feelings of calm and happiness. In persons with dementia and Alzheimer's disease, owning a pet can reduce symptoms such as aggression and anxiety.[10] If your friend was accustomed to regularly walking her dog, she may now be getting considerably less exercise.[11]
    • It should be no surprise that the death of a pet may precede health problems for a bereaved owner, likely because there is no longer a pet to help comfort and relieve stress.
    • Help your friend to find other ways to relieve stress in her life and stay active, such as going for a walk, taking up yoga, joining a book club, or finding a creative outlet like painting or music. Since your friend is already feeling lonesome because of the loss of her pet, offer to attend classes or otherwise partake of these stress-relieving activities with her.
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    Understand the grieving process. Just as with the death of a loved one, the death of a pet often causes an intense grief cycle that never really resolves. Don't expect your friend to just stop talking about her pet or to just "get over" her loss as if her pet were a possession and not a friend. Instead, recognize that grief is a process that often takes months or years, and doesn't end in resolution but rather in coping with the loss.[12]
    • Grief is a very personal process that is different for everyone. There is no timetable for your friend's grief.[13]
    • Your friend may even feel embarrassed or ashamed to talk about her loss with others, because many people do not understand the psychological intensity of pet bereavement. She may fear that you will think she is overreacting or that she should not grieve so intensely.[14]
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    Don't pressure her to get a new pet. While it is common for caring friends and well-meaning family to try to pressure someone to replace a dearly loved pet quickly, your friend will know when the time is right to adopt another pet.
    • Keep in mind that she may decide never to adopt another pet. Her beloved pet cannot be replaced, after all, any more than a child could be replaced.[15]
    • If your friend is a senior living by herself, a new pet might be a good idea to provide companionship and a sense of purpose. Still, it is your friend's decision to make, and should not be forced on her.[16]
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    Understand how she might be feeling if the pet was euthanized. People who have to euthanize sick or severely injured pets often experience intense feelings of guilt and shame over the decision, even if there was no other choice. [17]
    • Try not to talk about the euthanasia decision or process unless she does. In that situation, let her know that she made a loving, difficult choice and that it was the right thing to do. Assure her, if she asks or seems concerned, that the euthanasia process itself is closely monitored to ensure that it is humane, fast, and painless for the pet, who simply falls asleep.[18]


  • Some people will refuse help and don't like it when others make a fuss. If your friend seems to sincerely not want to talk about the pet or receive any support, the best you can do is leave her alone.


  • If your friend shows no signs of improvement, talk to her family. In some cases, pet loss can lead to severe depression or even thoughts of suicide. If you are worried for your friend's safety, call 911 or your country's emergency services number immediately.[19]

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Categories: Pet Loss