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In my work as an animal chaplain, I face on a regular basis people whose emotions are raw and whose pain is incredibly acute from their readying themselves to lose/just having lost their beloved animal companion. It’s never easy to know the perfect thing to say or do for that person, and I confess I simply must wing it with each encounter, trying to discern clues as to where each person is in his or her grieving process and what might be the right approach, the right words to help the most.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is give a long hug, hand over the tissue box and just listen. Other times, it’s offering reassurance that the person’s pet is still around, doing fine once again in its new state of being, and always sending his or her person love. Still other times, it’s helping them create a healing ritual or memorial service to bring closure and honor that pet’s life. On the happier end of things, it can be helping the person become open to the signs that the pet that has just passed will bring to guide them to their next animal family member.

Whatever you’re required to do to help a friend or family member through this trying time of loss, know your efforts will long be remembered  and appreciated for their sincerity.

However, I caution you to resist rushing him or her into adopting another pet prematurely just to try and shorten your own stint as the available “shoulder.” Opening one’s heart and home to love again is the ultimate goal, of course, but racing to that outcome before the necessary processing of emotions is complete can have very dire results. Stuffed or denied emotions can wreak havoc with our physical selves—resulting in disease down the line—as well as with our relationships. The pain WILL find its way out somehow. Tamping it down merely ensures it will come out at an inappropriate time and usually toward an undeserving target.

I just happened to find this link that provides some very sound advice as to what to do and what not to do for a friend who is struggling with the grief from pet loss.


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