Tag Archive | how to help a grieving friend

Healing From Pet Loss ~ Part 2

Experiencing a pet’s death can be very painful. It can also be painful to physically lose a pet through a divorce or if the pet wanders away.

When I talk to those who have experienced losing a much loved pet, they share how tough their experience has been. Some have been offered love, encouragement, and support, while others have not.

Perhaps, people are not quite sure what to say or do after a pet dies, because they’ve never lost a special pet. They just don’t “get it” or understand the heartache that transpires. They may have never experienced a close relationship with a pet…even if they have had a pet. 

People are also extremely busy these days. We live in a microwave society…everything is instant. And if something isn’t quick and easy, some people will choose to not get involved. Life seems to always be in one mode: fast forward.

Personally, until our recent puppy’s death, I never thought to call family or friends to see how they were doing during their grief after they experienced pet loss. I was clueless how painful losing a pet could be. I previously thought you cried for a few days and then carried on.

Boy, was I wrong.

But once you know better, you then are able to do better.

This blog post is Part 2 of a 4-part series on pet loss. After the death of our much loved and treasured pet’s death, my heart certainly goes out to anyone who has experienced losing a pet. To read our family’s story about the life and death of our son’s two-year old puppy, and our background with pets, check out Part 1 of this series on pet loss. 

We were very blessed to have support from our loved ones, which certainly has helped our grieving process. 

Others are not so lucky. Not everyone receives support…and, like me previously, not everyone knows what to say or do.

After talking to others who have been through pet loss, I want to offer some ideas of how to encourage those who have experienced a pet’s death – that way people can better know how to be there for their family and friends through their grief.

Anyone who reads this will have the ability to encourage their family and friends who have experienced a pets death…and it will mean so very much to them.

Disclaimer: Like I said in my first post about pet loss, I know by writing about pet loss, I run the risk of a non-pet lover rolling their eyes (I used to do the same, so no worries)…and I also may be criticized by those who are experiencing human loss. I’d like to assure my Grief Bites readers that I am not saying pet loss is worse than losing a human being. To some, it may be worse; to others it may not be. Each and every grief experience is unique and completely different – no two people will go through or experience grief in the exact same way. Whether it is a human being or a pet, this is an absolute truth every griever can agree on: The greater the investment, the greater the love — and the greater the love, the greater the grief. I sincerely hope this series on pet loss is a great comfort to anyone who is mourning – or who will be mourning – their much-loved pet, and it is my prayer these posts are not offensive to anyone in the grief community.❤️As with any grief experience, I look at it as an opportunity to share what I’m learning through my experiences, in hopes it can help encourage whoever needs it. I count it a privilege to help others through all grief and loss issues. 

Here are a few ideas of how to help a loved one through the death or loss of their pet.

How To Help & Encourage Someone Through Pet Loss~

•Seek to understand– Many people think of their pet(s) as family…their baby. They’re continually around them every second they’re home. They snuggle with them most nights, and many people’s pets even share the same bed with them. So when the pet dies, their presence is terribly missed. Since their home holds many memories of their pet, too, a person’s couch, bed, and every room in their house may feel empty. Memories are everywhere. When they get home, their pet is no longer there to greet them. It can be very tough the first few weeks or months.

•If the pet helped them through a tough time or a grief experience, the loss of the pet is going to be much more devastating- When a pet is “there” for their human during grief or loss, the pet and human develop a very strong bond. Some people may even become closer to their pets than their human relationships if the pet has helped them through grief. I know of a man whose grandchild was lost during the pregnancy. A few months later, when a new “grand-dog” entered the picture, he said his heart was greatly comforted every time he was around the new puppy. Sometimes, he’d puppy-sit for his daughter and take the dog fishing with him each weekend. The new dog truly helped him through that tough time. When a dog dies during or after a grief circumstance, please realize the pet’s death is profoundly sad to the pet owner.

•Call your family member or friend whose pet died and realize they’ll grieve for awhile due to triggers– Check up on them periodically. Just like all grief experiences, the grief comes in layers when someone loses a pet. There are ups and downs just like traditional grief. I cried horribly the first few weeks after my son’s puppy died. Then I seemed to be doing much better…until I was driving and saw the Starbucks where I used to get Pupuccinos for him. It brought all of the sadness back up. Grief, whether it’s a human loss or a pet loss, comes in waves…and you never know when a wave will hit you without warning.

Offer to bring your family member or friend dinner, or offer to take them out for coffee…and just be there to care- Not many people will offer compassion to those who have experienced a pet’s death. It’s not that they’re heartless…like I said, they may just not “get” how painful it can be. You can offer to bring coffee or dinner to your family or friends when they lose a pet. A few weeks after our puppy’s death, some of my friends lost their dog. To offer comfort some friends who just went through pet loss, I ordered and paid for dinner and had it delivered to them. I know how hard the first several days were after our dog’s death…I wanted to let them know that somebody cared. This special family was the first to offer to help us with our puppy when we first got him…they helped us so much. I know their hearts were heartbroken after their sweet dog’s death.

Actively show your condolences- Don’t only call or text your loved one, buy a card…send flowers…make a donation to a local shelter in memory/honor of their precious fur angel…offer to help them plant a memorial tree…if you have photos, make a mini scrapbook of the pet to give as a thoughtful gift. The ways to show you care are endless. As with any loss, take the time to actively care.

•When you do something kind, it will always be remembered- Right after we euthanized my son’s puppy, my mom and sister came to the vet. I didn’t even know they were coming, but it truly meant so much to me. As my son held his dog, right after putting him to sleep, I wanted to give him and his puppy some time alone. As I walked out of the room, it was a nice surprise to see my mom and sister..and so good to have a shoulder to cry on. I underestimated how tough the euthanasia would be on us. After the euthanasia, later that night, one of my nieces called to check on us and another niece brought a dog over to play with our other dogs, too. Our family received cards and phone calls as well. I will always be grateful to those who actively cared by showing up and those who offered us compassion. It really meant a lot. 

NEVER say anything to minimize a pet owner’s grief such as, “It’s just a dog” or “You can always get a new pet”- And please do not get them a new pet as a gift unless you talk to them first- They can’t replace the feelings they shared with their pet or duplicate the relationship they built. Most likely, it took years to build it. The reason they’re hurting so badly is because they are grieving the years they “did life” with their pet. Plus, another pet may not have similar personality traits. It’s also not fair to a new pet to place such high expectations on them; any new pet needs to be loved for the unique individual they are. When in doubt, just be there and simply say, “I’m really sorry. Please know I am here. Anytime you’d like to talk, call me.” Your loved one will know when it’s the right time to get a new furry friend….and they’ll appreciate any kind words you can offer them.

If you’re close enough to the person who lost a pet, and you know they cremated their pet or have fur clippings, consider doing something meaningful- I’d suggest inviting them to go somewhere meaningful to sprinkle some of their pet’s ashes at a special place. If the pet had a favorite blanket, you could ask the owner if they’d like for you to have it made into a pillow. You can also buy a necklace or bracelet for the pet owner that they can wear in honor and memory of their pet. We had our vet clip some of our puppy’s fur off after he passed away and I’m taking the fur to Build-A-Bear to be built into stuffed animals that have a clear, see-through heart…one for our son and one for me…so we can “hug” a part of our puppy when we miss him. If your loved one feels up to it, consider inviting them to do something meaningful like this, too.

Realize the inner turmoil your loved one may be going through– When a person has to make the painful decision to euthanize their pet, they’re responsible for ensuring the best interests of their furry best friend. Often times, there is a lot of second guessing…”did we do it at the right time…did we do it prematurely?” If the pet loss was sudden, they may wonder, “did I do all I could do to comfort, help, and save them?” A pet owner may feel deep feelings of guilt, depression, anger, or intense sadness after a pet’s death. They may even blame themselves for not realizing an illness sooner or not having the ability to save their pet’s life. Please take the time to see where your loved one is in their grief process. 

These are just a few suggestions of how to help and encourage a loved one who goes through a pet’s death.

Even if you’re not an animal lover or a “pet person,” these ideas will most likely be very meaningful to your loved ones after they experience losing their furry friend.

Compassion, love, and empathy are what’s important. Always be the compassion today that you hope to receive in the future.

My next blog post in this series will share ideas of how to carefully plan and create the prefect last day for your pet, and also how to create a peaceful experience with your pet’s euthanasia. If you have a pet, you will not want to miss these very important tips and safeguards. There are some lessons we learned the hard way. The next post will help to alleviate future regrets.

Gratitude, healing, & many blessings,
🐾❤️Kim

©2017 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️🐾If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

🐾❤️For more encouragement:

❤️🐾Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

🐾❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

❤️🐾Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

🐾❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️🐾FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays

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After the funeral-10 TIPS ON HOW TO HELP THE BEREAVED & what NOT to say

Having a grief ministry, I talk to several grievers every week. So many grievers I talk to are beyond frustrated with their family, friends, and fellow church members after experiencing grief.

They each share a common story…“After the funeral, nobody seemed to care. I’m drowning in my grief and everybody is going on living their lives.”…”I feel as though I am letting people down”…”If I hear one more cliche, I’m going to scream”…

I think anyone who has lost a loved one wants to know that others care about them…especially those closest to them. Yet so many I talk to share with me that the people they thought would be there for them weren’t…and people they weren’t close to have really helped them out throughout their most heartbreaking times.

I wonder why that is? Is it because loved ones can’t stand to see the people they love in so much pain..so they avoid them? Is it because life is no longer fun (grievers aren’t exactly the life of the party) so they move on to other people who aren’t so laden with sadness? Do they somehow think grief is contagious?

I think most people do care. I just do not think grief is talked about enough so that people know what to say or do for their loved ones in times of grief.

I think the key is educating people. Once people know better, they can then do better to help others.

Here are 10 ideas for anyone who wants to know how to reach out to their loved ones who are going through loss:

  1. The best thing you can do is to simply say sorry and “be there”…no additional words necessary. Just show up, let them know you love them, hug them, and simply listen.
  2. Never say, “Call me if you need anything”…Dozens of people have already told them that. Grievers need you to be specific. Instead, ask, “May I go to the store for you?”..”Can I run any specific errands for you?”..”May I bring you dinner tomorrow night?”
  3. NEVER go to a griever’s home and start cleaning or cleaning out their deceased loved one’s belongings without getting permission FIRST. A good rule of thumb is for a griever to wait 1 year (if at all possible) before deciding what to do with their loved one’s things. It is very common for grievers to regret doing so before the 1 year mark…and they may silently resent others for intruding by throwing their loved one’s belongings away without discussing it with them first.
  4. Please do not avoid a griever. You’d be surprised how many people assume that other people are being there for a griever, when in reality, no one is keeping up with them or comforting them. Periodically call them or stop by to see how they are doing. Send them a card, text, or a note to let them know someone cares.
  5. Realize that everybody grieves differently. Respect their grief. Allow your loved ones the freedom to grieve however they need to grieve…It will look completely different for each person and family. As long as they are not harming God, themselves, or others, it is perfectly fine to grieve as much or as little as they feel the need to.
  6. Try to remember important dates and anniversaries and then show the grievers in your life extra support on those days…birthdays, death dates, anniversaries, holidays, etc.
  7. Don’t be afraid to mention their loved one’s name. Most grievers still like to talk about their loved one. Many feel frustrated when they feel like they can no longer talk about their loved one. It makes them feel as though people want for them pretend their loved one never existed. They still deeply love their loved one and they miss them so very much. Please allow them to talk about their loved one if they wish to.
  8. Grievers grow tired of advice and most cannot stand being told cliches…such as…“They’re in a better place” (They do not want their loved one in a better place…they want them to be here on earth with them)…“You can have more children” or “You’re young, you’ll find love again” (They do not want more children or another spouse…they are not looking to replace their loved one, they want the one they lost)…“God needed another angel” (God did not need another angel. He is surrounded by them in Heaven. Grievers also do not need another reminder to be frustrated with God)…“I know how you feel” (Nobody knows how a griever feels because everybody grieves differently. I actually had a lady tell me that she had lost her spouse and her neighbor came over and said she knew how the lady felt because she recently lost her dog. People say the craziest and most insensitive things to grievers)…“You’ll see them again” (Grievers realize that but it does absolutely nothing to comfort them because they want to see their loved one right now)…“Look for all the good in your life…develop a grateful heart…yadi yadi yada” (This is helpful for some…but to others it isn’t helpful at all. A griever will most likely eventually see all the remaining good in their life but they need to process their grief FIRST. They just lost an incredibly precious person in their life. They are not in a position to see anything other than their intense heartache for awhile…and that is totally okay. Once they thoroughly grieve, they will grow tremendously by seeing the remaining good in their life…and grievers truly have a higher capacity to see all the good and genuinely be grateful…but it takes time)
  9. Please do not assume that all grievers want to stay at home and no longer have a social life. Many do want to stay at home because of their intense sadness and grief, but some truly want to get out of the house to do activities. Ask them if they’d like to go out for dinner, to a movie, or out shopping. They may welcome some relief from their grief.
  10. Please do not expect your loved one who is going through grief to “move on”…”be the same as they once were”…or “snap out of it”…It is NOT going to happen. The greater the love, the greater the grief. Depending on the severity of their grief and loss, they may not ever be the person you once knew them to be. They most likely are not going to move on for other peoples sake…and they should not be expected to. And there is no such thing as snapping out of grief…It has to run it’s course…and the griever is not even in control of that. A griever can press forward which is not the same as moving on…but again, that takes time and it has to be the griever’s decision. Once grief affects someone, they will be affected for the rest of their life because grief is not an event, It has no end. Grief velcroes itself around a grievers heart and unfortunately, it is with the person for life. It doesn’t mean they will never smile or laugh again…it doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually find a “new normal”…and it doesn’t mean that they are sentenced to a life of sadness or despair…but it does mean that grief stays in their heart and grief continually morphs. They are going to have both good and bad days. Be patient with them and allow them to grow throughout their grief experience at their own pace.

I hope these ideas are helpful to someone and helps someone to understand grief a little better. I totally did not mean to sound harsh if I sounded that way…Just trying to encourage people to not add more grief and frustration upon a griever.

Be there for the grievers in your life. Love them. Let them know you care.

Just showing up and listening is the greatest gift you can give to them in their greatest time of need.

If you have any input on how to help those going through grief, please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below.

Wishing everyone encouragement, comfort, & compassion!

Gratitude & blessings,
Kim

©2014 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.

❤️If you were encouraged by this post, please feel free to share it to encourage others!

For more encouragement:

❤️Making peace with God: http://peacewithgod.net

❤️Getting Your Breath Back After Life Knocks It Out of You (Kim’s book): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/mobile/w/getting-your-breath-back-after-life-knocks-it-out-of-you-kbh-niles/1112403330?ean=9781449725617 

❤️Connect on Facebook by “liking” page: http://www.facebook.com/GettingYourBreathBackAfterGrief

❤️Kim’s blog: http://www.griefbites.com

❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:

1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships 

2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed 

3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites 

4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays