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How to Help a Friend Whose Pet Died

by Sierra Koester, studioD

When a pet dies, people may feel a tremendous amount of grief. While grieving is a normal process, you may feel helpless watching a friend struggle through it. Unfortunately, while there is nothing you can do to alleviate the pain your friend feels after the loss of a pet, there are a few ways you can help her through the grieving process.


According to Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, many people who are dealing with pet loss just want someone to listen to them. Allow your friend to share memories of his beloved companion. He may feel sad, angry, guilty or reminiscent. All of these feelings are normal. There may also be long periods of silence when your friend talks with you about his loss. Silence does not necessarily mean that your friend is done talking about his pet. Rather, he could be processing his thoughts and emotions.

Understand Grief

According to bioethicist Dr. Jessica Pierce, many people do not realize that losing a pet can be as difficult as losing a human friend or family member. Understanding the grieving process allows you to help your friend more effectively. After the death of a companion, your friend may go through what experts call the "five stages of grief." Shock is the first stage, followed by anger, which may be directed at herself, her pet or the veterinarian for not being able to do more for her companion. Bargaining may appear as, "What if..." or, "If only..." statements. Depression is the fourth stage of grief and often is the most enduring stage. Acceptance is the final stage of grief. At this point in the grieving process, your friend will feel ready to move on with her life, though her loss will always be a part of her. Each individual goes through grief at her own speed. It may take several months for your friend to grieve the loss of her pet.

Memorialize the Pet

Help your friend memorialize his pet. Offer to help plan a memorial service. If you knew the pet, offer to say some kind words during the service. Create a photo album with pictures of your friend's pet. Make a donation to an animal shelter in the pet's honor. Dr. Pierce suggests offering to be present at the scattering of ashes or burial.

Offer Condolences

Express your condolences to your friend whose pet has died. Sending a sympathy card or letter may provide your friend some comfort. Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine suggests sharing memories of the pet in a letter, as knowing that you cared about her pet can also bring your friend comfort. Express your condolences verbally by telling your friend that you're sorry for her loss. Do not say things like, "It was just a pet," or, "You can always just get a new one." These comments are insensitive and hurtful to someone who is grieving.

About the Author

Sierra Koester has been writing professionally since 2006, contributing to several websites and blogs. She received her B.A. in psychology from DePauw University in 2004.

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