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What to say....

Everyone responds differently to death and loss. If you have to tell others who love the pet, such as family and friends, choose your words and your time well.

Do it face to face if possible, or if over the phone, ask them if now is a good time to speak. If they say yes, tell them you have some sad (not bad) news about your pet. From this point, they will most probably say it back to you- 'has our cat died'  and then you are away having the conversation you need to.

People in shock may burst out laughing as readily as dthey may burst into tears.

Others will go quiet, others may say, 'No Way'.

Just allow people to have their reaction, stay present, either in person or on the phone, and ask them if they want to know any more.

Give people as much of the information and story leading up to and around the death as you have. This is vital as it gives people a place to come back to as they make sense of the death in the days and weeks after.

With adults and children alike, use the words death, has died, is dying as opposed to is sick, has been put to sleep or has gone.

to children and young people, speaking clearly and plainly about what happened – the circumstances and results gives children a narrative that can link their pets’ disappearance from their lives. Whatever your choices, the most important thing to remember is that you want to be able to provide a narrative and sense of cohesion about the transition from living to dead. 

For example, “Our cat is not here anymore because she was hit by a car and died, we buried her in our backyard, picked flowers to put on the grave’ or 

“Our dog was old and she died one day, we called the vet and they came and took her body away and we had a ceremony in the backyard and put a photo of her on our kitchen table’

These narrative connections are the foundations upon which all other deaths and losses are built. With this in mind, how we respond to the deaths of our pets and the level of language, involvement and understanding we can bring to this, offers invaluable lifelong supports for all members of the family, especially our children.

If you have to tell work colleagues, those who you feel may not understand tell them that your pet has died, that they are a significant part of your life, you love them and you are sad. many people feel embarassed outside of family and friends to really express what their pets mean to them and the utter sadness and grief they feel on their death.
Having the courage, as appropriately as you are able, to state the significance of the loss will support you in many ways. None the least in honouring your pet and in living with their loss and the grief you feel.

Author Victoria Spence