The Grieving Process: Helping Friends Cope with the Passing of a Pet
I grew up, from kindergarten to college, with family pets. These dogs and cats were much more than merely animals – they could be described as family members. Each had a unique personality, but they all possessed some intangible quality that made me feel safe and comfortable. It never got easier to say goodbye when they passed away.
The nature of humanity gives us an unparalleled perspective among all of Earth’s creatures. We have the ability to build strong relationships with the awareness that those relationships will come to an end. Our connection to animals is no different than that of other humans because we spend years, even decades, with a loyal and sympathetic companion.
When dealing with loss, we all have our own methods of coping. Regardless of the circumstances or preferences, there are a few steps you, as a friend, can take to help someone handle the loss of a pet.
First and foremost, be available to your friend who just lost a beloved animal. The worst feeling any person can experience is reaching out to somebody who is not there. If you were unavailable when first contacted, make every effort to get in touch with and visit the grieving friend. This helps validate their feelings and make them feel appreciated.
In the time that you spend with them, I strongly urge remembering the pet with your loved one. This reminiscence should be to celebrate the joy the pet brought to you, your friend and others. If there are any pictures or videos of the pet, get them out and fondly remember the times that were spent together.
The entire grieving process regarding a pet is difficult. It is important, however, to encourage your friend to get back into a normal routine. There is no benefit for a person to hole him- or herself up at home and avoid the outside world. In fact, these behaviors often spawn depression. You need to be proactive in encouraging your friend’s routine activities and leisurely hobbies to find that normalcy in life again.
The time you spend with a friend in mourning can also incorporate more than his or her daily activities. I have witnessed amazing recovery within grief-stricken pet owners when they volunteer at a local rescue shelter. In this regard, you are not asking your friend to replace the pet, but you are getting them to care for another animal in need, which is greatly therapeutic.
The Healing Power of Volunteering
During the grieving process, we all feel helpless. However, the feeling does not necessitate that we become helpless. From the ASPCA to the Humane Society to thousands of local shelters, there are plenty of opportunities to become a part of a solution for protecting animals. By encouraging your friend, you have empowered him or her to do something valuable that immerses them in a caring environment among animals.
The volunteer work affords opportunities to interact with both new animals and new people. Providing quality companionship will help encourage someone in mourning to push forward and not allow grief to overcome their tenacity. In the process of volunteering, many volunteers are shocked by the skills they employed and the achievements they could boast as a result.