Providing Pet Loss Grief Support To Others - A Guide


Non-verbal and verbal expression of warmth, understanding, care and compassion. The ability to acknowledge and validate the grieving persons' feelings and process as normal.


The ability to actively listen or reflect back the feelings and experiences expressed by the grieving person without giving advice, telling one's own story, or interrupting. Willing to hear the other person's experience (perhaps many times) without imposing opinions, values, or solutions
Comfortable with silence. The ability to ask open ended questions to allow the griever to talk.


Acceptance of others' values, beliefs and spiritual practices regarding death and grief. Acceptance of others' emotional response to death. Comfort with a wide range of responses, from stoic denial to hysteria, however similar or different from our own. Respect for the others' process, allowing them to go through it their own way. Refraining from expressing one's own beliefs and values as the "answer to healing", or imposing one's personal beliefs in any way.

Comfortable with Tears

Understands crying as a natural, healthy part of grief
Takes no action to stop or discourage others' crying. Allows and supports crying; offers supports such as tissue, a private place to cry, make arrangements to have someone drive a crying person home, etc. Comfortable crying yourself.

Selectivev use of Self Disclosure

Ability and willingness to share own grief experiences, selectively, for specific purposes: To build rapport, to respond to others' inquiry about our experiences, to show our own vulnerability. Not to advise, get support for self, or preach about how well we've handled our grief, etc.

Understanding, Acceptance and Maintenance of Boundaries Between Self and Others

Comfortable not "fixing" the other; recognizes that responsibility to heal lies with the other. Can cope with intense emotions of others; can feel compassion for other without taking on their pain. Does not feel guilty about own well being and own loved ones well being in the face of others' suffering. Use own spiritual beliefs and practices in private to help self. Use own spiritual beliefs and practices unobtrusively (i.e. silent prayer) to help others; does not impose. It may be appropriate to say "I'll say a prayer for you." It is not appropriate to say "Well, you know she's with the Lord now and very happy." The former is an unobtrusive offer of support which may be comforting or at worst received neutrally. The latter is an imposition of beliefs and can be offensive to those with differing beliefs. Can offer support and resources to others without attachment to how and whether they're used

Self Awareness and Self Care

Clarity of own values about grief and related issues of dying, death, life after death and spirituality. Identification of any incomplete grief of one's own and commitment to work through own losses. In touch with and very honest with self about one's own reactions to death, personal beliefs about death and an afterlife, and personal philosophies about what really helps us heal from grief. Seek support regularly for self to counter-balance the exposure to painful, emotionally intense situations.

Appropriate Physical Expression ofF Compassion

Awareness of the healing power of physical touch (i.e. gentle touch to others' hand, arm, shoulder). Comfortable giving and receiving hugs yet always respecting boundaries of others (i.e. ask: "May I give you a hug?"; being careful to hug in a way that could not be construed as a sexual advance). Awareness of the healing power of soft and loving eye contact. Ability to let your love and compassion shine through your eyes.

Knowledge of the Grief Recovery Process

Awareness of the diverse range of feelings and reactions others may have in response to loss. Familiarity with models and paradigms of grief recovery, i.e. phases, tasks of healing from grief.

Familiarity with and Referral to Grief Support Resources

Ability to locate and refer resources of grief support to those in need: Books, tapes, support groups, internet resources, hotlines, etc.

copyright Teresa Wagner

Top of Page                 Grief Support Home