Losing a loved one — human or animal — is devastating. We’re left with a hole in our hearts that doesn’t seem like it will ever heal, and we’re certain life will never be the same again. Grief comes in many forms, and the way we move through it depends on the individual affected by the loss. So, how do we help a friend who’s grieving a cat? Sometimes we feel paralyzed, worried we’ll say or do the wrong thing. It’s possible to physically and emotionally help a grieving friend. Here are some ways to show you care when a friend’s cat passes over the rainbow bridge.
1. Allow her to grieve in her own way
There’s no timetable when it comes to grieving. For some, it’s a fairly quick process, but others may find themselves experiencing deep grief long after the death. Don’t be alarmed if your friend experiences anger, sadness and even short-term depression. Accept those feelings, provide opportunities for your friend to talk, and be patient.
Never tell your friend, “It’s time to move on” or “Get another cat.” Statements like that only diminish the unique relationship between your friend and her pet. Instead, say, “I’m here for you. What do you need?” “I know there’s nothing I can say to make you feel better right now, but please know I’m here for you.” Be a good listener and validate her feelings.
Dr. Patty Khuly says, “People who grieve for their pets need support, understanding and acceptance of their pain as a normal, natural reaction to a spectacularly sorrowful experience.”
2. Send your condolences
If you think your friend would be up for talking, give her a call. It’s definitely appropriate to send a kind note, or make or send a flower arrangement to your friend. You could also make a donation to a shelter in the pet’s name.
3. Offer physical help
Sometimes, when we’re grieving, we forget about self-care. Bring your friend food or offer to cook a nutritious meal. Offer to run errands or do a load of laundry. Little gestures mean a lot during difficult times.
Your friend might not be able to face the pet’s toys and other belongings. If that feels like the situation at hand, let her know you can help in any way.
Tell her about pet-loss support groups and offer to drive her or accompany her if she’d like the company. Here are some helpful resources. You can also go online to find local support groups.
4. Help memorialize her pet
It might be therapeutic to help your friend create a memorial of her pet. This memorial might be in the form of a decorative stone, a framed collage of photos, a photo album or anything tangible that would help your friend remember her pet and honor his life.
There are also many personalized memorials available for purchase online. You could review some of those choices with your friend and even place the order.
A final note on grieving a cat
Simply “being there” for your friend — in whatever ways she needs — is the best way to offer support when a cat passes over the rainbow bridge. If your friend’s grief turns into long-term depression or harmful behavior, get professional help. And if her grief turns into suicidal behavior, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
Tell us: Have you helped a friend who was grieving a cat? What did you do? What helped you get through losing your cats? Is there anything you wish that someone had done for you after you lost a feline family member?
Thumbnail: Photography ©Everste | iStock / Getty Images Plus.
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