There are few things harder in life than losing a pet, even though we know that our partnership will end in heartbreak eventually. On average, pets live about 1/8th as long as we do and, as a result, it’s not unusual to own six, seven, or more dogs in a lifetime. But, whether we own one or two dozen, it never – ever- gets easier to say goodbye.
When someone we love experiences this type of loss it brings about other kinds of difficulty; we know what they’re going through but we’re also not sure exactly how to respond. What do we say? What we do? How do we make their hurt hurt a little less?
There’s no magic pill that fixes grief; often, only the passage of time provides any sort of remedy. The grief never ends, though it dulls, going from overwhelming to manageable.
Unfortunately, we can’t speed up time or streamline the grief process. So, until time marches, we must rely on things that make the burden of pet loss a little lighter to carry. And a few of these include:
Providing Space to Grieve
Even when we understand grief (because we’ve experienced it ourselves), the grief of others makes us uncomfortable – no one really wants to see people they love sad. And it’s this discomfort that may lead us to encourage others not to express their grief through well-intentioned phrases like “don’t cry” or “don’t be sad.”
But anyone going through the grieving process needs (and deserves!) the space to grieve in whatever way feels congruent to their feelings. Some people want to talk, some people want to cry, some people want to yell and scream and curse whoever decided dogs should die so early.
Grief can never be micromanaged; it’s not up to us to tell others how to work through their sorrow. It’s only up to us to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for them to do it.
Suggesting a Support Group
Not everyone is a support group kind of person, believing instead that grief is a personal matter that should be handled accordingly. Still, the idea that misery loves company is nearly universal. It’s not that we find joy in bad things happening to others but we do find comfort in knowing that they don’t only happen to us.
The death of a dog is not personal; it happens to all pet owners eventually. And support groups remind us of that.
Helping with the Little Things
Helping someone in grief with the little things makes a big difference. This might look a few different ways. It can involve cooking dinner (or bringing over takeout), picking up dry cleaning, or mowing their lawn. It might involve more pet-centric activities too, such as picking their pet’s ashes up from the veterinarian so they don’t have to carry out such a gut-wrenching task.
Another way to “help” with the little things is through lending unconditional support for whatever decisions they make. Some people lose dogs and swear to never get another; it’s too hard and too tragic when they run up ahead into the great beyond. Others adopt a new dog the day after losing one. Offer understanding for whatever route the griever takes; different strokes heal different folks.
Considering a Memorial Gift
Dog memorial gifts are designed for this solemn occasion. They’re thoughtful and meaningful gifts for the person grieving. A personalized canvas, for instance, celebrates the life of a dog and helps keep its memory front and center. It can be hanged in bedrooms, dens, or living rooms, keeping the dog’s spirit in the home and the heart.
Never Minimizing the Loss
As pet owners, we know that there is no such thing as “just a dog”. Losing a pet is like having your heart torn from your body and tossed onto the kitchen floor. But, even when we get it, minimizing is a natural tactic because – again – grief makes us uncomfortable.
To help your loved one feel seen and heard, refrain from ever hinting that their loss is anything other than absolutely terrible. After all, that’s exactly what it is.