How do I deal with losing a pet?
...as one era of my Mom's cats, those furry bodies that comforted me with non-judging purrs and warm laps through high school and college, passes into memory...
...as I count myself lucky for having had the opportunity to meet, capture, and fall in love with some of my clients' pets who have since then passed...
...as I worry and fret over my each strand of grey fur on Katze, who is oblivious, curled up between my arms and the keyboard, purring away, sometimes resting her chin on top of my hand, riding the tip-tapping of my typing.
I try to savor every moment I have with her, and I believe we all do the same with our furry best friends. Knowing that some day Katze and Jayla will be gone, like their predecessors makes my eyes hot and my heart fill with emotions.
Losing a pet hurts, it hurts bad, and it hurts deep
The heart doesn't know the difference between the loss of a human and the loss of an animal. The loss is the same, yet everyone grieves differently.
So here's my advice on what to say or not to say to your loved one whose pet just passed on, coming fresh from losing my last childhood pet.
Please don't say-
'There's a lot of other cats out there.'/ 'There's a lot of other dogs out there.'
Yes, believe me, as most animal lovers are, I'm well aware. However, pets are as unique as snowflakes, there's only one, and there will never be another like that one. You will most likely make the grieving person feel worse by throwing this phrase their way.
It goes without saying that yes, likely another cat or dog will steal our heart again and a new book of memories will start writing itself which will be its own legacy and epic in every way, unique and different to its predecessor. No better or worse than its predecessor, just different.
Instead of asking, "But, hey, don't you have (other pet’s name) still?"
Try asking, "How is (other pet) handling the loss?” By asking this, you recognize that pets are not interchangeable, and you understand the other pet is grieving a loss as well.
What should you say?
Do say what a great cat/dog, he or she was, and how they also left little paw prints all over your own heart. That's comforting to a pet owner, knowing that their pet's greatness was not only recognized by themselves as their owner, but by others. We're proud of our pets.
If you can think of a funny story of something their pet did, remind them of it now, and make sure they know how you'll never forget that memory.
And if none of this feels right, one last piece of advice. I'm old fashioned, I love giving and receiving a good greeting card. It will always feel momentous to receive one, knowing that someone else took the time to stop and pick one out just for me. I've been known to spend a good 15-20 minutes stewing over the options before I find the perfect one to give, depending on the occasion. When you're wordless, or at a loss, wander over to the card aisle and let someone else help you say the right thing.
Do you have any other suggestions on what to say or not to say to someone grieving a pet? Leave me a note in the comments.