What to say when a pet dies

It’s 4am and I’m awake. Again. I feel like I should be able to sleep until my alarm goes off. This whole 4am thing is a whole lot less useful than you’d think. I always set my alarm for 6:30am, but that’s not the timeline that my body is on. Alas, it’s very early and here I am writing this instead of sleeping.

I often work with animals that are sick, dying or that have just passed over. Because of this, I’m constantly surrounded by death – or the thought of death. I’ve seen what helps and doesn’t help people move through this part of their life and I wanted to share that here.

First, I’ll say that it doesn’t matter how much I know about death, crossing over, or even how animals think of dying (just FYI, they’ve told me again and again that dying is the next stage in their existence – it’s akin to graduating middle school and moving on into high school). Regardless of this knowledge, a beloved animal dying is hard for anyone who’s had their heart touched by an animal to handle.

Next, a lot of people will feel immense guilt about their animal’s passing. They’ll wonder if they could have done more, they’ll worry that they should have tried harder or taken her less for granted for example. The thing is, as humans, we’re doing our best – even if we know there was more that we could have done. We all make the decision we feel is the one we need to make when we make it. If you have a friend suffering, you could re-assure them that they did their best – and that their animal totally and completely understands this. And it’s true. In connecting with animals after they’ve passed, I’ve never met an animal who said, “I’m mad at him – he didn’t do enough for me.” 

Which brings me to my next point: Animals are completely aligned with unconditional love. Does your friend worry that he make a mistake during his time with his animal? Did he think he didn’t act in his animal’s best interest? Does she think that, perhaps, she was preoccupied with the trials and tribulations of living her life? Whatever it was, whatever happened, animals hold total and complete forgiveness in their hearts. They don’t hold grudges in the afterlife – only love (after all, that’s what unconditional love is!)

Also, unlike people, animal’s aren’t afraid of dying. When I connect intuitively with animals around the time of their passing – or even after they have passed, they look at it very much as a fact of life. No animal has ever said to me, “I’m afraid to go,” or “I don’t want to go.” Sometimes, I’ll run into an animal that feels concerned for how their human will handle their passing and then the animal and the human and I talk about that – but death for an animal is not actually a scary thing at all. It’s just moving into that next phase.

Here are some other things that you could say to someone who is dealing with the passing of their pet:

  • Your pet intuitively knew how much you loved her 
  • You did the very best you could and your pet knows this deeply and is grateful
  • No matter what the form (animal, person etc.), your grief is real and it’s healthy to allow yourself to feel it – even if other people don’t understand and even if it isn’t pretty.
  • Your pet wants to come through with signs from the Other Side for you as you move through the grieving process. Keep an eye out for these comforting messages (while sleeping, or out of the corner of your eye, or maybe even a sound!)
  • I’m here for you – whether you’d like to talk about it or not, just let me know what kind of support you’d like. I’ll hold whatever space works for you as you go through this.

In the end, there isn’t a whole lot of talking YOU need to do to support your friend as she grieves. Just offering your support in whatever way your friend asks for it is going to be perfect. Many people will not actually WANT to talk about their beloved animal for a little while, but they’ll want to know that you’re out there, ready to catch them if they need it. Eventually, most of them will need it.

On the flip side, here are some things that would not be helpful. I’m not completely excited about including this list, but I feel like it will also be helpful because sometimes these things seem like they’d be helpful to say (although they just aren’t!):

  • It was just an animal
  • You an always get another one
  • It was just his time
  • It’s not like this was your child
  • You only had her for a little while. 
  • It’s been weeks. Most people would be over this by now.

So many of us view the animals in our lives as part of our family. Most likely, if you’re reading my newsletters or blogs you fall into this category (OK probably 100% of the people who read my writing fall into this category!).

Hopefully, you can see that the best way to help your friend is just to be there for them – in a non-judgemental, non-pushy way. Let your friend run the grief show and you meet her wherever she is.

Do you have your own helpful or non-helpful things to say to someone grieving the loss of their beloved pet? Please add to this list in the comments below. Let’s help people understand and navigate this challenging part of life!

Love and Light,
Danielle

 

20 replies
  1. JOAN DAVENPORT
    JOAN DAVENPORT says:

    This is so timely as I just lost my beloved cat “Fred” 3 days ago and I am grieving and missing him terribly….but I feel as if he sent me this email to comfort me. Thank you so much….it really helps…

    Reply
  2. Nancy Zuffoletti
    Nancy Zuffoletti says:

    It’s also very important to know , that when we Passover they are the first to greet us and they never stop loving us.after my Great Dane Truman passed I would feel him leaning on me .

    Reply
  3. Morgan Bartolini
    Morgan Bartolini says:

    Thank you. I feel like this is from my Si to me too because we are teetering on the edge now, trying to decide what to do…. : (

    Reply
    • Sal (Sally)
      Sal (Sally) says:

      This post left me feeling a lot better. I happened upon it the other day, when I was trying to clean out my InBox, and it was timely because Virgil, my 13 1/2 yr. old chocolate Lab, was failing.

      I too went through a lot of guilt. But I’d learned via my last Lab, Ainsley, it comes down to ‘quality of life’.
      I wasn’t going to put Virgil through surgery and etc., if in the end, it wouldn’t change the outcome.

      Back in October, I could swear I heard Vigil tell me “I’m leaving soon…” I started to cry. I said “Don’t go, I need you!” I mean…at that point, he seemed fine.

      I’m trying to learn animal communication with my newest cat, Emrys (Em-Riss), and was, with Virgil. Sometimes I thought we were communicating. Other times, I thought it was my imagination. And mostly, I thought I perceived what they were telling me occasionally, but until very recently, it wasn’t like we ever had a back and forth conversation. I’d used Dannielle’s help years ago, when my previous cat, Max, started having heart issues. In fact, Max was the subject of study for her beginner’s animal communication class, at the time.

      With Virgil, it just started with low energy and a little limited ability. After conferring with his vet, I went to his chiropractor/nutritional health doctor, and he was diagnosed as having a flare up of Lyme Disease, and that his head and neck needed adjusting. Ann never did get the Artemisia in from her supplier, but I put him on Ledum (homeopathic) for Lyme, I was already making him an organic Tumeric paste, to help with inflammation issues. And Tumeric also has great anti-cancer properties. I was totally researching everything I used with him…given I though I was treating Lyme, and he just needed 2 more chiropractic adjustments, having lost his his 2nd pelvic adjustment.

      I was even running Spooky2 frequencies, for cancer, oddly enough. It was all the lumps I was finding…

      Week 1, Virgil was improving, his mobility got a lot better, his energy perked up. Things were on track.
      Then everything went downhill the next week, when I saw him start to limp on his right rear leg. Next day, that leg started to drag a bit. Next day, he had his first accidents ever, at Ann’s office. And his back legs went out from under him, when he tried to hop into the front seat of my car, after his appointment.

      Things got worse…he started looking a little thin, despite his great appetite. He’d been growing small lumps since this Fall…and of course I freaked, thinking they ALL were cancerous.
      They weren’t. A couple were, when his vet Linda looked at them yesterday. But on the whole, most of them were just lipomas (a benign tumor made up of fat cells).

      Virgil slid downhill so quickly, he vet wasn’t on staff until the following week. His last few days were my doing laundry again and again and again. But I wasn’t mad. It was fine. He couldn’t help peeing.
      Yesterday confirmed that while most of his lumps weren’t cancer…he, like my late black Lab, Fletcher, had a hidden mass of cancer inside him. No symptoms…it just hid out…until the lumps started.

      In the end, the cancer spread to his lower spine…and I knew I had to let him go.
      I was more upset before he left, than when he left.
      His vet, Linda Rogers (who’d euthanized Max) makes it a very peaceful transition. While sad…I knew once he passed, he could walk and run again, he could track scents to his heart’s delight.

      So his gentle passing and the tone of the whole appointment, was probably the best experience I’ve ever had, in having to let an animal pass over.

      My friend drove me, as my car wasn’t up to the trip. He said Virgil decided to accompany me back home…and he saw him not only pass over…a little confused at to how to use his ‘skills’ in spirit form.
      He saw Virgil hop into the car, and saw him looking out the car window, on the way home.

      So as if he was there in my line of sight, I talked to Virgil last night. And it seemed like he had a lot to say. A lot of it was making sure I was okay. Before he’d passed, i’d told him how proud I was of him. How I knew he’d had such a rough life as a puppy in Indiana…probably chained out in a yard for his first 3 years.
      I told him he’d fulfilled his earthly ‘mission’ and then some. I told him despite his rough start, he’d grown his heart and soul SO much, that he’d have an amazing and stellar, next lifetime.

      Since yesterday, I haven’t heard much from Virgil today. So I wonder…was it all my imagination, last night? Was he just checking in on me, to see if I was okay…and now I won’t hear from him anymore? Is he just busy today, getting used to his new spirit-self? How does this all work?
      How do you know you and your pet are really communicating, and it’s not your imagination?

      So far today, not sure if I’ve heard from him once in a while, or if it’s just wishful thinking.
      I told him he’s welcome to drop by. He can hop up on my waterbed again…and snuggle there, anytime.
      Emrys hasn’t shown any indication that he sees Virgil…and like Max…I KNOW he sees spirits occasionally in my home. No one else is home at the time. I’m not hearing any sounds outside.

      Virgil always had this wild sense of when wildlife was approaching my property at night via the adjacent wetlands. He’d go racing from my bedroom, where the curtains were drawn for the night, to bark at the now dark, back yard. How did he know?!

      Sometimes a coyote or wild deer were there. Mostly I never saw what he did…but I trusted he certainly DID pick up on something. So I find animals are much more adept at sensing things than we are…be it spirit, or wildlife.

      When my budget permits, I’d love to study animal communication with Danielle. (Max says to say ‘hi’, Danielle). In the meantime, I’m winging it…

      So to the community…I’m wondering how much is wishful thinking, or my imagination, when I think I ‘hear’ my pets telling me something. But then unlike my friend, I tend not to ‘see’ spirit, I just perceive its presence, now and then. Or ‘think’ maybe…my pets are communicating with me.

      Haven’t seen any spirits out of the corner of my eye…other than my late dad, once. So I guess I’ll just see what happens, as time goes on. But any input would be helpful, thanks.
      (My imagination…or did Virgil just say I should say ‘thank you’ to all of you, as well?)

      Reply
  4. Margaret
    Margaret says:

    Reading these letters, maybe l have come to understand why I had my Spice when I did. At a very tough time in my life, when I did think i couldn’t get through another day, when I was thinking of taking those pills, my first thought was ‘Who will take care of my dog?’.
    I didn’t take the pills. She has passed now but besides the joy she brought me, maybe she saved my life.

    Reply
    • Cindy
      Cindy says:

      oh my gosh! Margaret, I am so happy to hear this. You were going to take pills and you thought who would take care of your dog. Danielle says our pets are here to teach us and your dog was teaching you something, I don’t exactly know what but your dog kept you here. This is beautiful. Your dog will meet you one day when it is your time. My heart is touched by this.

      Reply
  5. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Danielle,, Thank you so much for this post at this time. My beloved cat, my very heart and soul, passed over a few days ago and the loss has felt overwhelming. Your insight has come at the perfect time to help me move forward.

    Reply
    • Cindy
      Cindy says:

      Nancy I am so sorry for your loss. It will be 3 years on November 24th when I lost my Dozer. I think of him every day. Please be gentle on yourself and grieve at your pace. I am grateful for finding Danielle. I think she helps so many of us pet lovers. Take care.

      Reply
  6. Michelle Hamel
    Michelle Hamel says:

    Hi Danielle!
    I’ m a big fan of yours! Thank you sooo much for the teaching your giving!
    Your message is so pertinent for me at this time as i my nice horse ” Nemesis” has passed over.
    It reassures me a lot! And only time will grieve my loss!
    Thank you so much again!

    Reply
  7. Kerrie Godding
    Kerrie Godding says:

    Often, when someone loses a pet, they talk about how unbelieveably sad they are. How even they are surprised at the depth of their sadness. If I hear of someone I love who has lost a pet, I share this story with them…

    Shortly after losing our beloved 13-year-old basset hound, Mary, my husband and I attended an art show in a city nearby. Our feelings were still quite raw and the slightest thing could bring on a new set of tears.

    We met a lovely woman, a little older than we were, who shared her story. She told us that she too had lost a basset hound of many years and how, after its death, she just couldn’t stop crying. No matter how hard she tried, she just cried and cried and cried. One day (many days after the basset’s death) her husband said “OH FOR GOODNESS SAKES!!!! You love that basset more than me!!! I’ll bet that you are crying more for her than you will cry for me when I die!!!!”

    The woman told us that a few years later, her husband passed away. Then she paused, looked straight at us with a slight grin said…

    “You know, he was right.”

    Reply
  8. Helena
    Helena says:

    Thank you Danielle. What is your experience with animals raised for slaughter, ie to become food for us humans or our meat eating pets? Being av farmer with small scale animal husbandry I have given this question a lot of thought. Since I have a very close relationship with my 15 cattle and 30 sheep, 3 geese, 10 ducks, 12 hens (and chickens), I have a hard time making the restriction between my “pets” ie horses and cats that I don’t eat, and the animals that I eventually eat (oldest cow turning 17 yrs old this winter). I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Love from Sweden <3

    Reply
  9. CIndy
    CIndy says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head as to what to say & not to say. I would just like to add that you not forget about the person grieving and continue to ask them how they are doing as time goes by. Sometimes people have a hard time asking you to listen to them in time of need. I found this especially true if they have run into people who don’t understand and have said some of the things you shouldn’t say on your list to people who are grieving. If you talk to them about all the good times & memories they had it will help. Yes, they will cry & you may join them but in the end they will feel better. Just knowing they are not crazy, can grieve in they way they need too & you will be there for them helps. At least it has helped my friend with her service dog of 13yrs who passed a year ago last month. She is still having a hard time but is getting better even though she has another service dog.

    Reply
  10. Paola Anderson
    Paola Anderson says:

    I actually just lost my horse in a terrible pasture accident 6 days ago. I have run the gauntlet of emotions and it’s hitting g me hard.I have seen a whole lot of death in my life..including my 2 amazing dogs earlier this year..I’m usually one to bounce back pretty easy but this has been soul crushing.I’m letting myself heal as naturally as possible but I felt his spirit so strong in life..I don’t u Der stand why I didn’t sense he was in danger or that he had gone..I just found him and he was gone.maybe it’s because it was an accident and I wasn’t prepared but I Sen it be free too..this horse was like a soul mate to me.😢reading this helps a lot though and I ordered your book.I want to try to say goodbye but am struggling

    Reply
  11. Elaine
    Elaine says:

    I recently moved to a new city and had to find someone to cut my hair. As I sat in a stranger’s chair, we began talking about our pets to try to get to know each other. Her dog of 15 years had just died. As she talked to me about her beloved pet’s dying in her lap, she looked at me with the most beautiful smile and said, “When I bent down to whisper good-bye, my dog’s breath had turned to puppy breath. And that was my sign that she was going to be o.k. Better than ok, actually. She was on her way to something new and wonderful!” In that moment I knew I was sitting in the right chair.

    Reply
  12. Jane
    Jane says:

    Everything, and I mean everything here is so true. My black lab, my heart had fought cancer for several years. On a January Friday in 2014, our beloved vet did a biopsy on a lump on her shoulder. She was there for a nail trim and ear check. Mast cell, again. Unfortunately she forgot to give the dose of Benadryl prior to the biopsy and by Sunday the lump was 3 times the size. Monday you could just see the fluid building up in her leg and chest. I was a true mess, which I know now upset her beyond belief. She crossed about 5:15, not very peaceful and it started the year of great sadness. I was so guilty I rushed to my decision. I couldn’t stand one more minute of her eyes, so sad and what I now understand as she was already leaving me. Very few people understood how her loss affected me.
    I searched for anything and everything about pet crossing and it took me to Danielle. In late winter a year later, I did Danielle’s 3 part animal crossing phone series. The night before that first class Irish came to me after a whole year. Luckily, Danielle did several small readings that afternoon and I was blessed to have one. I was worried Irish was “cupping”. Not the case, but Danielle recognized how bad my evenings had gotten and gave me a push to get back to life. The people on those calls understood my immense pain, finally. Irish was here to teach me trust. I thought I failed her trust in me.
    Fast forward to July 2015. After 18 months of grief, on my birthday I know Irish sent me to visit a litter of pups at our boarding kennel. I know she pushed my boy up into my lap. Just with a small bit of following this site I truly believe my boy is here to teach me work/life balance and devoted love. I dread the day I will lose him already but understand now I have a “pack” to help me.
    I owe a lot to Danielle and the followers here that helped with my grief. I want to be and hope I am that person that helps others with sadness. It’s never “just a ……”.

    Reply

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