When A Senior Loses A Pet

Older woman sitting on a bench next to a large poodle.

Research tells us that for many seniors having a pet companion can provide a source of love and provide a sense of purpose as they care for another living creature. Unfortunately, when the times comes that the pet dies, the loss can be devastating.

Helping an elderly loved one when their pet dies is similar to the way you would react to anyone who loses a pet. However, there are a few things you can do to be there for your friend or family member as this companion has certainly played a central role in their life.

  1. Offer Emotional Support. Be there to listen and encourage them to talk about their pet, their feelings and their memories. Encourage them to share anecdotes and special times. Let them know that you understand the bond they shared.
  2. Validate their feelings and let them know that it is okay to grieve. As they live into their later years, seniors have come to see many loved ones pass away. That doesn’t make this loss any easier to accept, and often, their pet has been a long-term companion. Try to be empathetic and understanding.
  3. Provide distractions. Help your friend find healthy distractions and activities to occupy their time and focus their energy. Encourage them to engage in hobbies, spend time with friends and family and if you can, try to visit them more often.
  4. Carefully consider pet therapy or possible adoption. There are many programs that offer pet therapy and visitations to seniors. Do the research and let them know the options. If your friend or family member wants to adopt again, encourage a short period to consider and then you can help them explore the possibilities. Many rescue organizations have senior dogs looking for a home.

Bottom line is to be a compassionate and supportive presence. It will take an adjustment to live without their beloved pet and they will need your understanding to help them through their grief journey.

Our next, and last blog, in our series on pet loss will discuss some of the things to think about when considering getting a new pet after a loss.