9 Things Never to Say to Someone Who’s Lost a Pet…

woman-hugging-dog-mdnYour friend’s pet just passed away, and she’s devastated. While you know it’s  a sad time, you may not be able to grasp the emotional turmoil she’s  experiencing if you’ve never owned a pet. “Pet parents are made to feel guilty  when their grief is more extreme than it would be for a human being,” says  Coleen Ellis, founder of Two Hearts Pet Loss Center. But a recent survey shows that 91% of pet owners think of their companion  animals as family. For your friend, that means losing her little one is like  losing a spouse, child, sibling or parent. And that’s why you should avoid  making these nine hurtful comments.

1. “It was just an animal.”

After her 12-year-old dalmatian died, Teresa Henderson of Dallas, TX, was  crushed when her mother-in-law implied he wasn’t family. “Buster was there for  us every day,” she says. Minimizing the loss is one of the worst things you can  do, says Stephanie LaFarge, PhD, senior director of counseling services at the  American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals  (ASPCA). “Let the owner know that you respect the grief she’s feeling,”  recommends Dr. LaFarge. Show your support by sending a card or donating to a  local shelter in the pet’s name.

2. “You can always get  another one.”

“I was surprised that people told me to replace Mystery right away,” says  Madison, WI, native Niki Young, whose 13-year-old husky-lab mix passed away last  year. “I needed time to reflect on our relationship.” You may think getting a  new pet will make your friend feel better, but owners often aren’t emotionally  or financially prepared to welcome another animal, says Marty Becker, DVM, a  featured columnist at VetStreet.com. “Don’t bring up the subject until she starts  hinting that she’s ready,” he advises.
3. “You knew his life  would be short.”

When a person first picks up her new puppy or kitten, the last thing on her  mind is the number of years they’ll have together. “Sometimes people just fall  in love and don’t think about the animal’s lifespan,” says Dr. Becker. Besides,  that short life lasts many years, which is long enough for an owner to be quite  upset when her beloved buddy dies. Reminding a friend of the pet’s limited years  “won’t change the emotional response she has,” says Dr. LaFarge. “It’s better to  empathize with her and not try to talk her out of her grief.”

4. “You’ll have so much free time now that he’s gone.”

You may mean well, but pointing out the positive aspects of the pet’s absence  can come off as insensitive. “That comment emphasized the fact that Mystery  wasn’t around and I missed her a lot,” says Niki. A major no-no: reminding your  friend that she’ll be free to go on vacation. “It may be true, but it’s painful  because it’s part of the loss,” says Dr. LaFarge. Focus instead on the special  relationship she shared with her pet.

5. “I can’t believe how much you spent on treatment.”

It’s never a good idea to question how much or even how little your friend  put into treatment for her terminally ill pet, especially after the death. Some  people may spend all their savings to hold on to their cuddly lifeline. Others  can’t afford certain procedures. “You don’t want her to feel guilty for whatever  decision she made,” says Dr. Becker. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t  criticize how she pays for her car or home, so don’t comment on how she funded  her pet’s healthcare.

6. “That breed always has problems. Don’t get another  one.”

For some pet parents, a particular breed holds sentimental value. “Many  people grow up with a favorite family pet and become attached to that breed,”  explains Dr. Becker. “The animal is a way to pay tribute to family.” Though you  shouldn’t totally ignore your concerns about a certain breed’s health problems,  never give your friend an ultimatum about what kind of pet she should get next.  “You can caution her against making that choice, but don’t add that she  shouldn’t get another one,” says Dr. LaFarge.

7. “Why do you still have those toys?”

When her nine-year-old boxer began battling pancreatitis, Teresa was hurt  when a friend called her out for holding onto her baby’s treasures. “She made it  seem like the toys weren’t a big deal,” she says. “It felt callous.” Even though  the toys may seem useless to you, owners will hold on to their animals’  keepsakes for years. “Those things are like totems,” says Dr. Becker. “Some  people will leave out the food bowl or bed as a memorial to that pet.” If you  can’t think of anything positive to say, avoid talking about the animal’s  belongings.

8. “I can’t believe you’d keep the remains in your living  room!”

Regardless of how crazy it might seem to you, having an urn on display is  your friend’s way of remembering the life of her furry comrade. If she feels  like you’re shaming her decision, she may hide her feelings from you completely.  “Pet parents are forced to second-guess how their actions will be perceived by  others,” says Ellis. Instead of letting your friend mourn alone, listen to what  she plans to do without passing judgment.

9. “Why is it taking you so long to get over this?”

After having a loyal and loving animal by your side day and night, it can be  extremely trying as an owner to cope with the death. “Even the most put-together  person can spend years getting over the loss,” says Dr. Becker. Steer clear of  chiding your friend about moving back to reality and acknowledge the hardship  she’s experiencing. “Honor her story by asking about the pet and letting her  share,” suggests Ellis. Showing that you understand the loss’s significance is  the most important thing.

  1. sherridip@aol.com

    The people who make those comments just do not “get” the love nor the bond we share with our furry kids! There is also a huge quantity of ignorance and lack of sensitivity. I have removed all people who process that ignorance and lack if sensitivity from my world; with no regrets. Sherri

    Sent from my iPhone

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