loss of pet article

7 Ways To Support Your Spouse As They Grieve The Loss of a Pet

All pet owners can remember the moment of that last painful goodbye to their beloved companion. That moment makes a mark because the bond between owner and pet is more profound than many people realize. If you have a spouse grieving the loss of a pet, it can feel hard to know how to support them best.

This guide is here to help you through this challenging period.

Read on for some practical ways you can help your spouse if they are grieving the loss of your pet.

1. Validate Your Spouse’s Grief

Grief is perhaps the most personal experience a person can have. That’s true after losing a pet, too. You may not have the same feelings as your spouse or feel the loss of a pet similarly.

That’s why it’s crucial that you validate your spouse’s emotions. It will make them feel heard. Pet loss can be as complex and emotional as grieving a human.

Your pet has a unique personality and relationship with you. That history means their absence can feel overwhelming at the start.

Whatever your partner’s emotions, ensure you show no judgment as they go through this grieving process. Sadness, anger, and guilt are all valid feelings. You may even find your partner moves from one emotion to the other.

2. Offer to Create a Memorial

Some people have discovered that practical support is the best way to help when a partner is grieving over a lost pet.

Memorials for pets are a loving way to cherish their memory and mean you can focus on something tangible to show your support for your spouse.

You could create a physical area for a memory, like a spot in your yard. If you opt for this, it’s a chance to decorate an outdoor space with your pet’s favorite things, like their toy. You could add flowers, too.

Alternatively, you could collect some tokens of remembrance together in a box, like photographs or collars.

Another touching way to remember your pet is assembling an album of pictures and memories. You could do this and present it to your spouse or suggest you work on it together.

3. Be Present

When people aren’t sure how to handle other people’s grief, they sometimes take a step back.

However, it’s good to try the opposite for your spouse. Show your physical presence as a symbol of support, and provide physical comfort when they need it, like a hug.

These silent forms of affection can tell your spouse you understand their grief, even when you don’t know what to say. If you see your spouse looking lost in thought, try walking over to hold their hand.

This small gesture shows solidarity. It’s a powerful but simple reminder that they aren’t going through this alone and that you are there.

4. Encourage Your Partner to Talk

Keeping emotions inside often leaves individuals isolated when they are dealing with grief. You can support a spouse who is grieving by inviting them to talk about their feelings.

Gently encouraging your partner to open up will be a valuable step in the healing process.

If they can’t speak, suggest writing in a journal instead. Or you could exchange stories of your favorite memories of your pet.

If your partner doesn’t want to express their feelings, remember that everyone has a unique grieving process. So try not to show judgment. Instead, make it clear that you are there to listen when they feel ready to talk.

5. Offer Some Space

Remember that sometimes your spouse will want space even when you yearn to be a pillar of support. Part of the grieving process is having some time alone to reflect.

Giving your partner distance isn’t about being absent. It’s about providing solitary space to heal. They may find these moments of peace are an opportunity to reflect, cry, and process the loss.

You can provide your partner with space in practical ways, too.

For example, you can take on some extra chores at home to allow them time to unwind. Or you could rearrange events you have in the calendar, like pushing back dates on get-togethers with friends and family.

If your partner practices meditation, you could set up a space for them in the house to remind them to keep this practice going.

6. Suggest New Activities

A new activity or a change to a routine can help your partner, as it will provide fewer reminders about your pet’s absence.

It will help distract your partner in a positive way to avoid grief consuming every moment of the day. Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Walking in nature
  • Reading a novel or joining a local book club
  • Painting or another creative outlet
  • Gardening
  • Volunteering
  • Arranging a weekend vacation

You may worry that these activities provide a temporary distraction. However, they are valuable activities for someone grieving the loss of a pet. It helps the mind to focus on other things, which in turn aids the mind as it begins to heal.

7. Be Patient

It’s easy to assume that grieving is linear, but this isn’t the case for most people. Emotions ebb and flow. Your partner might seem fine one day and seem overwhelmed with grief on the next.

That is expected, and it’s good to recognize this for what it is: a normal grieving experience.

It means you may have to be patient at times. There is no cut-off point when the grief will end. Depending on how your partner feels, you may have to adjust your support from one day to the next.

However, there are times when grief becomes overwhelming. If you sense your partner isn’t coping with the loss of a pet, you could suggest counseling.

This type of support will help your partner navigate their way through the grieving process.

Grieving the Loss Of Your Pet: Supporting Your Spouse

Grief is often a testing time for a relationship. Grieving the loss of your pet is no different.

You may find yourself surprised by how your partner reacts to a loss. Knowing how to support your spouse can feel challenging. Use this guide to help you.

If your partner lost a pet recently, reach out for support. Grieving the loss of a pet can create challenges in relationships, but you don’t need to feel alone through this process.


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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