For people who love their pets, saying goodbye never gets easier. Whether you see someone talk about their loss online or off, here are five things you probably shouldn’t say:
1. “At least it’s not a family member.” The ability to love isn’t finite. People are capable of feeling lots of love for lots of things, and trying to legislate how they feel about a loss of a loved one, pet or not, is trampling all over their grief. And even though it may not be that way to you, for a lot of people, pets are family members.
2. “You can get another one.” Pets aren’t something you just swap out like batteries. Granted, sometimes we have to “get another one” sooner than we want because young kids don’t understand or the remaining pets are showing severe signs of depression. But trust me, people know that other animals are out there. They’re kind of hard to miss. Saying it just makes it sound like you don’t care about the one who’s gone, or the effect on the family.
3. “Someone has a pet for sale right now, should I connect you?” This is an escalated version of #2, but if you think it’s better, think again. Look, grief is personal. Some people take way less time than others to process their feelings and move on. That’s fine. It’s still better to err on the side of waiting a few days if you’re feeling compelled to rush in with a replacement animal.
4. “I’m lucky that hasn’t happened to me yet.” You’re lucky if you haven’t received this comment yet. Some people seem to feel obligated to show how it’s all about them; don’t be that person.
5. I’m posting about your loss on my Facebook too so I can talk about how I feel. This may not be what you actually say, but doing this is how it comes across. And yes, this also makes it all about you. Unless you’re directly involved, let the people who are actually involved have their time and take comfort in people’s sympathy. Yes, people can feel for you too—as I said, love (and feelings) aren’t finite—but it’s still rude.
This list is just my personal take. Your mileage, as it were, may vary. One thing I know is that pets can love you unconditionally. If you want to honor the memory and the person who is grieving over the loss of that love, just try a simple “I’m sorry for your loss.”
What things have you heard?