It's a pretty safe bet that if you're reading this post, you've either suffered a loss or been close to someone who has. It is sadly an inevitable part of being in this world, a painful rite of passage. As a former therapist and current pet portrait artist, I often find myself on the front lines in helping others endure some of life's more difficult moments. Because experience is the best teacher, I have also reached out to my Royal Family for their input. Dog mamas know best ;)
There is truly nothing you can do to take away someone's sadness and everyone deserves their grieving period. Whether it's the loss of a beloved pet or human, grief is grief and we are entitled to process the feelings that come along with these experiences on our own timeline. The key is to acknowledge someone's struggle and offer your support. Often times, that's all that's needed! Here are a few phrases that many may find comforting:
- "Sending my love."
- "It's clear that you've done everything you could've to give them a happy, healthy, comfortable life."
- "We know how much you loved _____" - @lapetite_lebeau
- "I know there are no words to offer comfort, but please know that I am thinking of you." - @bailey.ukulele
- "Nothing can make this better, but I'm here for you if you need me." - @pawsible.chicago
- "They may not be here physically anymore, but they are here in spirit every day." - @the_bully_brigade
- "Feel all the feels. Remember the good times. Hold the memories close to your heart." - @natali.cmt
- "May you find comfort in your loved ones during this diffuclt time."
Some situations may call for extra warm fuzzies. Flowers, cards, coffee, chocolate, spa time, wine, snuggly robes or slippers, are all lovely offerings. I (obviously) also love sending pet paintings and cuddly pillows as a means of celebrating a pup's presence in the home. Etsy has a variety of sympathy cards with forget-me-not flower seeds embedded into the paper - recipients can plant the cards with flowers to look forward to in sunnier times! Setting up a MealTrain is free and helps to organize friends and family who want to alleviate the burden of worrying about what to eat. Can't beat home cooked comfort food! Martha Stewart has compiled an amazing list of freezer-friendly meals - I usually double it and advise them to freeze half for a rainy day. My personal favorite is the sun dried tomato alfredo! Delish. @kerryann_628 recommends a proper night out when the timing's right - love it.
Saying something is generally better than saying nothing at all, and it goes without saying that we want to do what we can to put an end to the icky feelings. However, we are all guilty of foot-in-mouth disease from time to time. Here are a few comments that should be avoided:
- "So and so had this thing happen and it was MUCH worse than what happened to you." - I don't find comments of this nature to be particularly helpful as they not only minimize feelings, they remind us of other sad situations when we are already sad. We have a right to be upset and our grief isn't lesser warranted than someone else's. One woman's grief shouldn't be compared to another's. As perfect as she is, my mom is frequently guilty of this. I've heard this from a number of my peers as well and suspect that it may be a generational issue. Baby boomers seem to have a knee jerk "it could have been worse" reaction.
- "At least ___ was old or sick and you saw it coming." or "At least their suffering has ended." - It's nice to think that a loved one who was suffering isn't suffering any more. However, it isn't fun to be reminded of said suffering and we would very much prefer our loved one be alive, well, and past it.
- "At least ___ died and you didn't have to put them down" - This doesn't quite feel like a silver lining and having difficult decisions made for us doesn't make grieving any easier. It's a feeling minimizer.
- "Everything happens for a reason." - While this is a helpful sentiment in the event of a breakup or career change, it is inappropriate when said in reference to something as final and profound as death.
- "It's just a dog." - I can't with this one. People who've had a dog wouldn't say it.
- "It will get better with time" - While stabbing, harsh pain inevitably dulls over time, this comment is a reminder that time will pass and we will need to move on without our loved one. Not a desirable thought for someone in the thick of it.
Thank you to all who have shared their ideas in my very scientific Instagram polls! Am I forgetting any? Please drop me a note below or send me a DM and I'll add it! I will leave this here in case anyone finds themselves needing to refer back, whether helping others through grief or helping themselves express thoughts when faced with ill-suited comments. Let's fill this world with much-needed empathy.
Because you've made it this far and clearly are a compassionate human, if you order a painting for your friend who is grieving, enter RAINBOW at checkout for a complimentary sympathy card 😉