Helping a Friend in Grief
“Companioning” a friend or someone you love through the death of a beloved pet is an honorable role. Your role is not to make the grieving person “better” or lead them on their journey, but rather it is to help your friend or loved one “through” their own personal journey.
As a companion in the journey, you are someone who can provide support and understanding, free of judgment or criticism and with compassion. You can give help the grieving pet parent in the following ways:
Listen actively with your entire being and heart.
Be there. Be present. Be a friend. Ask questions. Be willing to not have any answers. Listen. Then listen some more. The purpose of the questions is not to get answers or tell the grieving pet parent how to feel or what to do; it is to help the grieving pet parent explore his or her feelings.
By really listening, you can help the grieving pet parent hear his or her own heart. There are no right or wrong answers. Let your friend share stories about his or her departed pet, and honor the stories. These stories are part of the grief journey.
Create a safe place for the grieving pet parent to mourn.
Acknowledge that that person is on unique grief work journey and allow the grieving soul to hurt. To hurt means that the next step is to heal. Companioning means you can “just be” with the person who is grieving, without the need to provide a magic pill that will make the pain go away. You are providing a safe, nonjudgmental emotional space for your friend to grieve.
Make sure your friend doesn’t neglect good physical care and daily routines.
Friendly reminders to get enough sleep, eat well, and stay active can be helpful, as well as providing a hand whenever and however you can. Understand that grief is hard work and can be exhausting, you may want to bring over a meal, pick up a few things from the store, bring in the mail, or assist with a couple of chores for your friend.
Also, be sure to check with your friend before moving anything or doing anything “irreversible” – for instance, washing or throwing out something that may be a sentimental reminder of the departed pet. Ask first. Offer your assistance, follow through with your offers, and remember that your presence alongside your friend is powerful and important through the grieving journey.
Assist with rituals to honor the deceased pet.
When words are inadequate, it’s important to turn to rituals or ceremony to honor the love shared between pet parent and pet. Light a candle, share a special reading or poem, start a scrapbook, set up a tribute table or go on a similar walk enjoyed with the pet to honor stories or memories of times together.
As a companion, you are actively assisting someone on through their grief journey. The bereaved soul will no doubt appreciate the opportunity to have support during mourning, when finding their new normal in daily life and in their search for meaning by asking ‘Why?” Having ongoing support from an empathetic companion has a major influence on someone’s capacity to heal.