Pets are part of the family. Any pet owner knows. So it’s no surprise that we love and cherish our sweet pets who share our hearts and homes. They’re with us around the clock, experiencing every emotion and asking for so little in return. So, when one passes, it’s nothing less than sheer heartbreak.
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If you have a friend or loved one who has lost a beloved pet, look below for some tender and sweet ways to help them process their grief. Hopefully, you’ll find a few that will work for anyone in need.
What You Can Do If You Can Be There In Person
Good friends are around for both the good and bad times, especially because you hope that others will reciprocate the love you give when you’re in need.
So, if your friend or loved one has just experienced losing their pet, take a look at how you can help them walk through their grief.
1. Offer a warm embrace
It turns out that hugging has some health benefits that scientists and researchers have been studying.
The link between hugs and stress relief has to do with increased oxytocin levels and the endogenous opioid system, which produces soothing sensations. So, a hug, although a small act, offers a considerable boost inside the brain.
2. Drive them home from the veterinarian’s office
Extreme stress takes its toll on one’s driving since people have cognitive lapses, make unintentional mistakes, or even intentional errors.
So, rather than letting a friend or loved one drive after losing their pet, grab the keys and drive for them. Their loved one would thank you.
3. Drive them to pick up the ashes
Even if your friend or loved one wants to be alone, you can still take the keys to this event.
Whether they know it or not, having someone else in control while they feel so little in command will help them process their grief. Now and again, it’s refreshing not to make all of the decisions in life.
4. Drive them to spread the ashes
To the vet, from the crematorium, to go spread the ashes—these can be lonely drives after losing a loved one, even if it was a pet.
Offer your company. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone along for intense moments, even if it’s a quiet ride.
5. Provide listener comfort
Often, it helps to have someone listen to our worries without expectations of judgment or input. So, lend an ear and be prepared to listen to some stories about their lost little one.
Here are some ways to help you be a better listener:
- Turn off your phone.
- Find a quiet space.
- Don’t change the subject.
- Look them in the eye.
- Don’t be in a hurry to leave.
- Validate their feelings.
- Empathize with them.
One day, the tables may be turned, so consider how you’d want to be treated when you need someone to listen to your words.
6. Go for a hike or walk
It’s proven that exercise will improve one’s mental health by reducing anxiety and depression and improving cognitive functions.
That said, grief can wreak such havoc on a person that they may not be exercising normally. As a friend and loved one, you could give them a little push. Plan to be up for an adventure, even if it turns out to be a stroll in the park.
7. Have a backyard fire
Relaxation induced by the fire may be an evolutionary or cultural adaptation. Much like waves or static noise, the sound of a crackling fire could be another path for stress reduction.
Although this theory is unproven, most people who love a campfire also feel happier in the company of friends when around that crackling fire.
8. Take them camping
Taking a vacation or any time away when dealing with the loss of a pet improves physical and mental health, increases mental power, decreases burnout, and improves interpersonal relationships. Afterward, your friend should have a better outlook on life ahead.
9. Plant a tree
Planting a memorial tree is a great way to remember a precious pet. Throughout the years, your friend can look to the tree when they want to remember their pet.
And every year as the tree grows, it’ll create a safe space for backyard critters and shade for a bench or hammock.
10. Go to yoga
Hitting things when you’re upset can feel like a considerable tension release, but it doesn’t fix the problem. So, skip the kickboxing class and go to yoga instead.
There’s something incredibly meditative about shutting off the outside world and listening to one outside voice if only for an hour.
What You Can Do to Help If You’re Far Away
Even when geography keeps you away from helping a loved one through grief, there are so many ways to share your love. So send a meaningful message or gift. Something to inspire positive thoughts and memories.
11. Donate to the rescue
Nonprofits are always struggling for money, especially pet rescues. Most of them rely on private donations from people like you and me.
Donate some cash to the rescue where your friend adopted their pet. You’ll help your friend and a lot of other needy pets, too.
12. Send flowers
Pick some cheery flowers like daisies or sunflowers. Send one flower for every year that your friend and their pet lived together. The symbolism will not go unnoticed, and your friend will find your effort touching.
13. Send a gift basket
Gift baskets are all about making someone’s life a little easier. So, here’s a little help for choosing what to put inside sympathy gift baskets if you’re feeling stuck:
- Poems about pets
- Treats for surviving pets
- Books about pet loss
- Soothing bath items
- Relaxing teas and essential oils
- Slippers and socks
Pro-tip: Don’t forget to include a handwritten note with some touching words or quotes.
14. Make and send an art piece
Whether you paint, draw, or make stained glass, anything that you create for your friend or loved one will become a cherished item for the rest of time.
If your art piece is somehow a reflection of their pet in some way, it’ll be that much better.
15. Send a stuffed look-a-like pet
If you’re unfamiliar with the trend of creating stuffed animal versions of one’s pet, go online and type in some keywords.
You’re about to discover a number of options and a range of skilled artisans that can turn any pet image into a keepsake.
16. Create a memorial slideshow or video
If you don’t know what to say to someone who lost a pet, that’s okay. Ask for some favorite photos and videos so that you can put a video or slide show. It’ll say everything you want to say.
17. Send a memorial tree
If you can’t be present to help your friend plant a memorial tree, you can still send one to them. But how do you know what kind of tree will grow well in their area of the country?
That’s easy. Search for a local nursery and give them a call. They’ll be able to answer any questions you have, and you can probably purchase it right then and there
18. Name a star after their pet
You may have thought about naming a star after someone, but what about after someone’s fur baby?
Star registries are an especially great idea for anyone who loves to go stargazing throughout the year. If they don’t own a telescope, you can find a good one for about $200.
19. Send a wearable memento
Jewelry of any kind makes for a beautiful memorial or souvenir for two big reasons. One, jewelry is pretty to look at, so it makes people smile.
And two, your friend will have to touch it to put it on, which makes it a kind of mnemonic device that can further elicit positive emotions as time passes.
20. Make and send a holiday ornament
Holiday pet ornaments will be taken from their storage container and placed on a tree year after year, bringing smiles every time.
There’s plenty of online tutorials to help you with any basting stitch or origami fold, so find something you love enough that you’d make for yourself.
Celebrating the Human Bond with Pets
If you’ve ever known the unwavering love of an animal, you’re well aware that pets inspire the best in their humans.
From nighttime cuddles to morning routines, they embed themselves inside our hearts in the most innocent and loving ways. Carry those thoughts as inspiration when seeking ways to help celebrate their life.
- Manning-Schaffel, V. (2018). The health benefits of hugging. NBC News. www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/health-benefits-hugging-ncna920751
- Mendoza, M. (2020). How to Listen to Those in Mourning. Psychology Today. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-grief/202001/how-listen-those-in-mourning
- Rowden, M., et al. (2011) The relative impact of work-related stress, life stress and driving environment stress on driving outcomes. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 43(4), pp. 1332-1340.
- Science, S. (2019). Why is sitting by a fire so relaxing? Evolution may hold the key. Discover Magazine. www.discovermagazine.com/mind/why-is-sitting-by-a-fire-so-relaxing-evolution-may-hold-the-key
- Sharma, Ashish et al. (2006). “Exercise for mental health.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 8,2: 106. doi:10.4088/pcc.v08n0208a
- Shannon, T., PsyD, LP. (2017). Importance of taking vacation. Allina Health. www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/thrive/importance-of-taking-vacation