If you know someone who has had to say goodbye to their dog, do you struggle with what to say to them?
I’m asking because lately I’ve had quite a few people talk with me about this concern and they’ve asked me to write about it so I thought I’d throw out a few thoughts that might help.

1) Know your audience: If the person grieving is someone you know really well and you also knew the dog, you might talk about memories you have of the dog … “I remember the time he …”  When you refer to the dog that reminiscence tells your friend that you had a connection with the dog too and might help relieve some of the isolation the person feels. On the other hand, if you’re just reading a post on Facebook and you don’t really know the person and didn’t know the dog, a simple “I’m sorry” might be enough.

2) Be carefulabout saying, “I know exactly how you feel” because that might be presumptuous on your part. You may have had the same experience, but everyone grieves in their own way and launching into an account about how you felt when you went through the same thing might not be helpful and it might create the impression that you’re more interested in talking about yourself than expressing sympathy.

3) Try not to offer suggestions about how to deal with the loss before you ask if the person would like some suggestions. We sometimes think our advice is always needed when in fact many people just need to vent and aren’t looking for suggestions.

4) Speak from your heart.If you’re feeling sad for the person, then just simply say “My heart goes out to you” or something similar. Your sincerity will come through.

5) Thinkabout what you might want (or would have liked) people to say to you in the same circumstance and go from there.

6) Saying nothing doesn’t really feel right.If you feel like you want/need to express your feelings on the subject to the grieving person, don’t cop out by saying nothing. This is particularly true if you know the person. Pretending that someone hasn’t experienced the death of an animal friend by talking about everything but that is artificial and comes off as being insensitive and the grieving person will feel even more isolated than they already do.

7) Saying “Don’t cry”doesn’t help. Tears are a necessary part of the grieving process.

8) You might want to ask “How Can I Help you?”which then gives the person an opening to talk about what they need from you. If they say that they don’t need anything from you, you need to accept that and just let them know you’re there for them if they need you.

9) Do something nice:bring flowers, plant a tree or shrub in memory of the dog in your friend’s yard, or make a donation in the dog’s memory.

10) You need to get another dog might not be the right thing to say. Yet. The length of time it takes for someone to welcome a new dog into their home and heart after their dog friend has died varies and you can’t rush the process. Some people are ready right away but others often take a longer period of time. Honor the process.

Bottom line? Reaching out is a good thing; just know your audience and be sincere, regardless of what you say or do. 

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