How to Help When a Friend Loses a Pet

5 Ways to Help When a Friend Loses a Pet! What to do and not to do when your pal is grieving

When June Greig’s beloved dog, Baily, passed away, one of the most touching gestures she received was from a woman she’d never met.

“It was the mother of my daughter’s co-worker. None of us had met her,” recalls Greig, of Longmeadow, Mass. “She wrote that she had experienced a similar loss of her dog, and understood what we were going through. Her note brought tears to my eyes.”

Anyone who has experienced the death of a pet knows how painful the experience can be. In the absence of established social norms — such as those that accompany a human loss — uncertainty often worsens the situation. Family and friends are unsure of how to act, and the owner may hide his or her true sorrow, for fear of being perceived as silly or dramatic.

But as with most major traumas in life, outreach provides needed comfort. Whether it’s your closest friend, or that person you nod hello to each morning, here are some ways to show support.

1. Recognize their loss

Whether the person appears visibly sad, or is cheerfully going about a daily routine, always acknowledge the loss. Reach out in person, by phone or even through a tasteful post on social media. After the death of two cats, Mary Beth Cooper of Peoria, Ill., recalls, “Facebook turned out to be one of the most helpful resources. Late at night when your mind wanders to sadness, you can go back and read all of those words of support.”

Going one step further — offering to listen — is even better, says Russell Friedman, executive director of The Grief Recovery Institute in Sherman Oaks, Calif.