On Tuesday night, singer and actress Hilary Duff announced on Instagram that she is devastated over the death of her beloved dog, Beau. The star of TV Land’s Younger shared the following post:
And some of the comments on People.com haven’t been exactly comforting:
“Get a shelter dog, one that’s healthier and sturdier than this poor little thing.”
“My naughty boy?” Did this pup die doing something he shouldn’t because his owner wasn’t caring for him? Sounds that way to me.”
“Puppies are like babies and need to be supervised. Looks like she dropped the ball.”
Yikes! While the majority of people are sensitive enough to offer heartfelt condolences after someone says a final goodbye to their pet, they may unwittingly come out with a line that isn’t as sympathetic as they’d hoped.
“The reality is relationships are complicated, whether it’s with another person or another species,” Michele Pich, MA, MS, Veterinary Grief Counselor Instructor Penn Vet Ryan Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, tells Yahoo Health. “Each loss comes with its own emotional ties, memories and connections and it deserves to be treated on that individual basis.”
Here, Pich offers four statements never to say to someone who is mourning the passing of their faithful companion.
It’s Just a Dog/Cat
“Basically, by using the word ‘just,’ you’re minimizing that relationship or minimizing the pain this person is going through,” says Pich. She emphasizes that people go through the same stages of grief when losing a pet that they do when losing a human. “So by using the word ‘just,’ it’s making it harder for this person to be able to grieve and to feel comfortable talking to others about what they’re going through, possibly making them feel more isolated.”
Just Get Another Pet – You’ll Feel Better
This statement implies that animals are interchangeable and that they can easily be replaced. “It suggests they’re more of an object than an individual being, so it invalidates the individuality of the animal and that special relationship that this person and their pet had together,” explains Pich.
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Why Are You Still Grieving? That Can’t Be Healthy
“The grieving process takes as long as it’s going to take,” states Pich. “It’s really more important that this person is progressing through the process than it is to actually set a specific time limit for it.” Therefore, having rigid expectations about a specific amount of time that’s deemed an “acceptable” grieving period “can actually stifle the healing process.”
Your Pet Lived a Long Time – You Should Be Grateful You Had Them for So Many Years
“You can understand that somebody saying this is trying to be helpful because they don’t know what to say,” says Pich. “However, this statement implies there should be a cutoff point as to what’s considered enough time. But the truth is no amount of time is enough.” She adds that while certain circumstances can make the mourning period even more trying for some people, “the reality is there’s no expiration on that love.”
If you or someone you know needs guidance during their time of grief, the ASPCA offers a Pet Loss Support and Bereavement Counseling Hotline at 877-474-3310. For those living in the Philadelphia area, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine offers Pet Loss Support Groups run by Pich.
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