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6 Practical Ways to Support a Friend Who Has Lost a Pet

Part 4 in our 5-part series on pet loss

Your best friend just lost a pet she’d raised from infancy. She’s devastated by the death of her furry family member.

How can you show compassionate support during her time of intense grieving?

1. Show up often.

While each of us processes grief differently, one of the most meaningful ways to support your friend is to be there for them.

Don’t say, “If you need anything, let me know.” Assume that your friend does need your help, but may be hesitant to ask for it.

With their permission, give them a hug. Offer a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear for them to express their sadness, anger, hurt, and to reminisce about happy memories.

Make an effort to be in regular contact with your friend, as waves of grief hit at unexpected times – often weeks or even months after a pet’s death. Let your friend know you’re available to listen when they’re ready, and check in with them weekly.

2. Affirm that they were a great pet parent.

Your friend may be experiencing guilt over deciding to euthanize their pet, or mentally beating themselves up for not recognizing a serious health concern sooner. Assure your friend that they did their best.

3. Make or buy a condolence card.

A card is a tangible way to let your friend know your thoughts are with them. Send additional “thinking of you” notes for several months after the pet’s passing. While texts and emails are a good option, your friend will treasure a handwritten note sent via postal mail or hand-delivered.

If you need inspiration for what to write on a sympathy card, The Petal Talk blog offers 25 messages you can adapt.

In addition to cards and notes, consider a memorial gift, such as:

  • Donating in the pet’s name to a pet shelter or pet assistance organization
  • A plant or flowers
  • Gift basket
  • Personalized jewelry
  • Garden stone or memorial plaque
  • Framed photo or photo book

(Part 3 in this series outlined more ways to celebrate a pet’s life.)

4. Offer to help with emotionally draining tasks.

If you live close to your friend, ask whether they would like help going through their pet’s belongings. Whether they choose to store or donate the items, they’ll appreciate your presence to sort through toys, leashes, bedding, food bowls, and crates.

5. Schedule times to walk, run, or ride bikes together.

Dog owners are accustomed to walking their dog daily, and when the dog passes, it’s emotionally painful to maintain that routine. Exercising together will not only help your friend release pent-up emotions, it will also help them begin to heal.

6. Offer to help create a tribute to their pet.

Next week, guest author Denise Lee Branco (a certified pet loss grief specialist), will introduce us to the G-I-F-T method of creating a treasured keepsake that honors a pet.

You can assist your friend in writing, sorting through photos, and creating a tribute that will help them preserve their favorite memories of their pet.

Coming next in our pet loss series:

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Atlantic Veterinary Hospital in Seattle serves the following neighborhoods: Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Seward Park, Capitol Hill, Leschi, Central District, Madison Valley, International District, and Georgetown.