36 Ways To Offer Sympathy When a Friend’s Pet Dies

When a friend loses a beloved pet, it's hard to know what to say to help them in their time of grief and mourning.

This guide was written to help you.

First Comes Chaos

A person suffering the loss of a beloved animal is often in a bewildering position. He or she may know they feel grief that is as raw as any they’ve suffered – for a variety of reasons, they may be startled themselves by the chaotic tsunami of emotions that crashes and churns inside them.

Yet they know that society as a whole does not give mourning for animals the same respect we give to mourning the loss of a person. So, they may try to hide or minimize their feelings in public, not wanting to be seen as weak or overly dramatic or silly.

And your friend may be feeling a strong undercurrent of guilt in the waves of grief. In some pet parents, the loss of a beloved animal can trigger grief deeper, more painful, and more persistent than the loss of even a parent or sibling. All of us have been taught by society that we should care more about people than about animals.

But relationships with other people are often a complex tangle, ranging from love to hate, and often a knotty mixture of both. Very few human relationships are as pure, simple and positive as the unconditional love some of us share with a pet.

So, the grieving animal-lover is confused, sad, guilty – doubly guilty if euthanasia was involved – and perhaps even embarrassed about it all.

There is a good chance that more than one person has hurt the grieving pet parent by being dismissive: “It’s just a cat.”

(No, it isn’t just an animal, it may have been your friend’s closest sole-mate.)

Or by offering well-meaning but misguided attempts to solve the situation: “Go to the pound and get another one! There are plenty waiting.”

(Would you suggest to someone that has lost a child: “Call the adoption agency and get a new one!”)

Or by countering or “topping” with another loss: “Well, at least you didn’t have to go through six months of cancer like we did with our dog.”

The Right Things to Say

Helpguide.org offers this advice: While many of us worry about what to say to a grieving person, it’s actually more important to listen. Oftentimes, well-meaning people avoid talking about the death or change the subject when the deceased person is mentioned.

But the bereaved need to feel that their loss is acknowledged, it’s not too terrible to talk about, and their loved one won’t be forgotten. By listening compassionately, you can take your cues from the grieving person.

First, treat your friend’s pain as real, and the grief he or she is feeling as potentially life-changing for them. Treat the loss with utmost respect – as if the closest relative had been lost.

The most basic messages your friend needs to hear are:

• I’m sorry

• I care for you

That is core of any sympathy message: I acknowledge your loss, and I want you to know that I am here to care for and support you.

If in person and appropriate, a simple “I’m so sorry about (name),” and a warm hug, can say a lot.

Deepening the Message

If you have a close relationship with a grieving person, you’ll want to expand on the basic message with some personal additions.

We’re all individuals and we will all mourn in our own style. But I can assure you that every grieving person will appreciate a message that:

• Recognizes the loss and the grief

• Offers sympathy and support

• Does not put a time limit on mourning

• Does not offer a simplistic solution

• No “toppers”

• Suggests practical ways to help

Example:

Recognize: “I am so sorry to hear that you have lost your sweet Amber.”

Sympathy/Support: “She was such a good companion to you, I know this is difficult.”

Even stronger is a personal statement of connection at this point: “Remember that time we took her on a picnic to the lake? It was so obvious that you two were the best of friends.”

Honesty and sincerity are appreciated, even if it’s: “I wish I knew something to say that would make you feel better. Just know I care.”

No time limit: “But this will pass with time,” “You’ll get over it.”

No simple solution:“Get another,” “Get your mind off it.”

No “toppers”: “It was worse when my horse passed because…”

Practical help: “I’m sure you don’t feel much like cooking. May I bring over a casserole for the family tonight?”

Asking “what can I do for you?” puts the burden on the mourner and almost surely prompts the reply, “nothing, thanks.” If you sense that your friend needs practical help like food, child care, running errands – if it’s something you’d do for a person who lost a close relative, it’s appropriate for those grieving an animal companion.

A Bridge You Shouldn’t Cross

Many pet parents talk about beloved pets going across The Rainbow Bridge to a paradise for animals after death. Others believe that we will united with our lost pets in our Heavenly afterlife.

These are comforting thoughts and they have consoled millions of mourners; they’re beliefs, though, meaning not everyone subscribes to them. Go carefully before offering this type of support. If the mourner brings up an animal afterlife, you can expand on and support the mourner’s beliefs.

Three Dozen More

With this guidance, you can craft a message to your grieving friend that shows them your love and brings them welcome comfort. If you need inspiration, here are three dozen messages of support and sympathy that you can adopt and adapt:

1. It is amazing how deeply pets can touch our lives. I know that is the case with you and (name of pet.) There is nothing I can say that will ease your loss – just know I care for you and I’m so sorry. I am doing errands tomorrow morning, what errands can I run for you while I’m out?

2. I am so sorry to hear about (name of pet.) The loss of such unconditional love hurts, I know. I just want you to know that I care about you and am here for you. There’s not much I can say to change the situation, but I can listen. Do you want to get a coffee or tea and talk a little?

3. I am so sorry about the loss of your beloved (name of pet). The bond between the two of you was pure and unconditional. I’m sure it will live on forever in your heart. Here is a candle I got for you that you can light to celebrate the good memories you two made together.

4. Helen Keller said: “What we have once enjoyed we can never lose; All that we love deeply, becomes part of us.” I know you are missing (name of animal) and I am so sorry. But I know (he/she) will live in your heart and mind forever more. Here are some flowers I picked from my garden, I hope they’ll add a small touch of color to your day.

5. Deepest condolences for your loss of (animal name). I witnessed the love you two shared time and again – you weren’t just companions but sole-mates. I know that love will continue to live in your heart. I baked some cookies for your family, you all deserve a little sweetness right now.

6. I was so sad when I heard about (Name of animal). The passing of such a loyal, bright companion is a hard blow. Just know that I care for you and I’m here to support you now and in the future. Let me pick up your kids from school today and take them for ice cream. I’m sure you could use a little “you” time.

7. I know how much you loved (name of animal) and how much you will continue to love (him/her). Such as beautiful, unconditional love is as pure and uplifting as anything we can experience. I hope the special memories you have let that love live on forever in your heart. Here is a special journal I got for you. You can add photos, write stories and feelings, and keep those memories alive.

8. No words can ever make up for your loss of (name of animal). Just know that I am here to care for and support you however you need me. It’s easy to forget to eat at such a sad time. You need to refuel and recharge, let me take you to lunch and we can talk.

9. You and (name of animal) were an inseparable team. I’m sure you must feel off-balance and incomplete without (him/her). No person can offer you that kind of pure, unconditional love but I can offer a listening ear and a supportive heart. Shall we go get some coffee?

10. The years you shared with (name of animal) have been some of the most special times of your life. Now, in this time of loss, I hope the enduring memories of all you did together will give you strength and solace. Here’s a photo of you and (animal name) I have. I thought you might like a copy to add to your memories.

11. The heart remembers most what it has loved best. We are with you in spirit now during your time of sadness. May the sweet memories you have of (animal name) bring you comfort now and in days to come. Here’s a little inspirational book I love that might help – this copy is for you.

12. Life is short, and never gives us long enough with those we most love. Our deepest sympathy to you and your family for the loss of your beloved (name of animal). I’d be happy to take your children out for ice cream and give you a little “you” time. When would be a good time?

13. Companion, confidant, solemate – (name of animal) was much more than just a pet and I’m sure (his/her) loss is heartbreaking. I can’t do much to change the situation but I can offer an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. I have some calming herbal tea, want me to come over a brew us up a pot?

14. There are many animals in our lives, but few that become as close as family. I am so sad about your loss of (animal name). Though it may be hard to realize now, love is never truly lost. The happy memories you shared will keep (animal name) alive in your heart and mind forever. I’ll give you a call this afternoon, if you want to talk.

15. I have witnessed the bond between you and (name of animal), so I can imagine how sad and hurt you are right now after losing (him/her). Please know that others love you, and that we’ll be there for you when you need us. I’m sure you have other things to do, would you like me to come over and water and trim up your garden?

16. My heart is broken to hear of (animal name)’s passing. (He/she) was truly one-of-a-kind, and so was the love between you two. If you feel like talking, or just need a big hug, (or both) I plan to bring by a casserole for your family so… when’s a good time?

17. Our lives are rich with few perfect relationships – but the unconditional love between you and (name of animal) is close to perfect. Our deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family; the loss of your precious friend is a difficult blow to bear. I’m sending you a copy of a small book that consoled and inspired me after we lost (name of own pet). I hope it helps you as it did me.

18. Following the loss of such an irreplaceable companion as (animal name), it is perfectly natural to feel confused and alone. I hope you know that there are others who love and support you, and that you and (animal name) are in our hearts and prayers. In fact, I have asked our pastor to say a blessing for you at the next service.

19. I saw this candle and I thought of you. May it add a little light to your heart in this time of darkness. My sincere sympathy goes out to you as you mourn the loss of (animal name.)

20. Love never dies, and I’m sure the love you shared with (name of animal) will live in your heart and mind forever. I got this diary for you to write down the best memories and experiences the two of you shared so you can relive them whenever you want.

21. Grief is not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. It is the price of love. All our sympathy and love go out to you as you mourn (animal name)’s passing. These flowers are from my garden, a small tribute to the beautiful friendship you two shared. Bless you!

22. Special animals teach us more than we ever expected and love us more than we could have hoped. That’s why we miss them more than we could have imagined. Deepest condolences for your loss of (animal name). This little keepsake box is good for holding (his/her) collar and tags, small toys, and pictures. Use it with our love.

23. A prayer for you in your time of grief: “Tenderly may time heal your sorrow, Gently may your friends ease your pain. Softly may peace replace heartache, and warmest memories remain.” We’re so sorry about (name of animal) and hope that the beautiful memories of all that you two shared will bring you comfort in days to come.

24. It is said that death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal. The memories of (animal name) may bring you sadness today but I pray that they will be treasures of healing and comfort to you in years to come. I’m sending you a link to an article I bookmarked about dealing with grief – I found it helpful when I needed some answers.

25. I sometimes thought of (name of animal) as your “spirit animal” because both of you seemed more joyful and alive when you were around each other. I know it hurts now, but I’m sure that spirit will live in your heart and mind forever, and will guide and comfort you throughout the rest of your life. Here is a picture I took of you two last summer. I had it framed for you.

26. I was heartbroken to learn of (name of animal)’s passing. The two of you were very special companions, anyone could tell. I hope sweet memories of your time together can console you some in this time of sadness. Here is a box of my favorite herbal tea. It calms me, I hope it gives you a few moments of relief too.

27. It is said that our dearest pets first teach us about love, then teach us about loss. I know the loss of (animal’s name) is a painful burden to bear. I pray that the love you two shared will lighten the burden and bring you comfort forever. I thought your family might need a little sweetness right now. I hope you enjoy these cupcakes.

28. There is no earthly love greater than the unconditional love between a person and a special animal. We mourn with you the passing of (animal’s name) and remind you that we, and many others, are here for you. We hope this houseplant will be a bright spot in this sad time.

29. I am truly sorry to hear of your loss of (name of animal.) Few of us share a relationship as close and loving as you shared with (him/her). Only time will ease the pain you’re probably feeling now, but at least I can lend a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on. Let’s go have a quite drink and a good talk this evening.

30. No words are equal to the loss you’re feeling with (animal name)’s passing. Such a rare creature, who touched your heart so deeply, cannot help but be missed and mourned. These three candles and instructions are for a candle-lighting ceremony to honor (animal name) and other animals. May it bring you some peace.

31. Our most precious animals leave indelible paw prints on our hearts. (Name of animal) has surely left you with thousands of happy memories. I pray these will comfort you now as you grieve, and forever. Here’s a video I shot with my phone of (animal name) and you to add to the happy memories.

32. Losing a beloved pet is never easy. Please know that I and others understand the pain you’re going through at the loss of (name of animal) and are here for you. The enclosed Bible verse is one that lifts my heart when I’m down. Maybe it will help you too.

33. If there is such a thing as “true love,” you truly shared it with (name of animal). It is natural to grieve over the loss of such a wonderful friend, and normal to mourn. Be assured that your best friends understand and are here for you – as long as it takes. Here’s a list of all my contact numbers, if you want to talk. A text to that personal phone is the fastest way to get my attention.

34. Our time with a beloved animal is always too short. I am so sorry to learn of (animal's name) passing. I hope this card reminds you that you are loved, and that we are here to support you. Bless you.

35. My deepest sympathy goes out to you at this time of loss. I witnessed the enviable bond of love you and (name of animal) shared and I know it must grieve you deeply to lose (him/her). This small photo book is for memories of you and (animal name). I pray it keeps the good times alive in your heart. 36. I wish I had words to soothe your grief over the death of (animal's name) but at these times words are just so inadequate. Please know that you are loved and that your friends and family are here to console and support you. I'll drop by later with some fresh brownies I baked and we can talk more.

A Simple Alternative

Or, easiest yet, send one of our free e-cards or videos.

If you want to do something special for your grieving friend, send one of our Memento Cards or a gift such as our LoveLight Candle or I-Care Sympathy Packages.

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