I’m not a huge fan of the word “pet,” mainly because my three Labrador Retrievers have meant everything to me. They are confidants, anxiety relievers, caretakers, and somehow, know exactly when you’re having a bad day. Losing your animal partner-in-crime is something impossible to understand unless you have gone through it yourself. Let me be the first to say, when I lost my childhood chocolate lab, Eddie, back on Christmas Day 2012, I didn’t know if I ever would be able to get over it. I sat in the bathtub for days on end, letting the water get cold, only to reheat it and continue to not move.
Like other kinds of pain, this grief is not something you can write off and work around—you have to feel it. So if and when one of your friends loses their beloved best friend, know this could be one of the most difficult things they’ve ever been through. This was not a six-month relationship. They need you present, to know you understand, and to know their emotions are valid.
The worst thing you can do is to underestimate the extent of their pain.
Let your friend know that you are a safe space. You are allowed to talk about it, instead of ignoring what is causing so much heartache. The pain has to be felt. While it’s okay to say that you understand what they’re going through, make sure you keep the focus on them alone—it is about their healing, not comparing experiences.
It will take time.
Don’t assume they’ll be “over it” within a week. Grief does not have a one-size-fits-all timeline. Simple gestures to let them know you’re still thinking about them can go a long way. It can be helpful to suggest activities to keep them busy, without being overbearing. Mention all the joy that was had in that relationship, and how their best friend is still watching and taking care of them from above.
Never, ever, ever say… “It was just a ‘dog.’”
More than anything, your friend just needs support. Don’t offer clichés or remarks that could be taken as critical (i.e. judging how they are grieving). Coming from someone who has lost more than one best friend, my heart will always go out to those who are losing parts of their hearts.