Sally believes pets are important members of the family. Empathy in the workplace can ease feelings of grief after a co-worker's pet dies.
I remember the day I walked into work after my cat had passed away. I was in a fog and I couldn't focus on things as simple as writing out a to-do list. Minor inconveniences like a jammed printer or an empty coffee pot in the staff room felt like insurmountable hurdles and I just wanted to go home and cry. Finally, a co-worker sensed that I was upset and distracted and gently asked me what was going on. I broke down in tears and told her what had happened to my cat. I felt so relieved when she said she understood how painful my loss was and that she was there to help me get through the days ahead. I'm so grateful for my co-worker's support that day—I've never forgotten it.
How to Help a Co-Worker Through the Loss of Their Pet
You've just found out that your co-worker's pet has died, and you want to offer them support. You know how painful pet loss can be. It may have been a beloved cat, dog, bird, or even goldfish: A person's attachment to a pet and the level of grief they feel when it dies shouldn't be measured by the size of the creature.
The first step in supporting your co-worker is acknowledging their feelings and validating their sadness. Here are some other tips for how to help them cope with the death of their beloved pet. These are just a few of the things my coworker did to support me, along with things that I have since done to help others get through their own pain of pet loss.
1. Send Them a Pet Loss Sympathy Card
Almost all greeting card companies offer sympathy cards for the loss of a loved one. The words found within them are usually general but always heartfelt. These cards don't necessarily specify who the lost loved one is which means that the sympathy sentiments expressed could also be appropriate for the loss of a pet. Because of the greater awareness of how much pets mean to their human guardians, most major greeting card brands now have a few sympathy cards for the passing of an animal companion.
2. Give to an Animal Charity in Your Co-Worker's Name
3. Share Resources on Pet Bereavement
If you think your co-worker could benefit from some additional support as they deal with the loss of their furry friend, consider looking into pet bereavement resources. You could find out if there is there a support group meeting nearby that they could attend.
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The Rainbow Bridge is an online community that gathers on Monday evenings for a pet loss candle lighting ceremony. (This was the first site about pet loss that I found after my cat died. She passed away on a Sunday and having the Monday night candle ceremony the next day was a tremendous source of comfort for me.)
One of my favorite books on pet bereavement is Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz. I read it cover to cover in the weeks after my cat passed away and I have lent my copy many times since then to friends, family members, and co-workers dealing with a pet death in their family.
4. Help Ease Their Workload
See if you can help your co-worker take a little bit of a longer lunch break by covering them for 20 minutes or so. This might be just enough time for them to take care of some of the details related to the loss of their pet. Perhaps they need to call a pet crematorium. Perhaps they'd like to call a few of people in a support network to help with the grief. Or maybe they'd just appreciate a bit of extra time to go for a calming walk or spend some quiet time on a park bench close to the office.
5. Be Supportive in Front of Other Co-Workers
6. Acknowledge the Other Family Members Who May Be Grieving, Too
If your co-worker has children, in addition to coping with their own sadness and grief, they will also be supporting their children through their feelings of loss. Simply acknowledging their children and saying how hard this must be for them lets your coworker know that you understand the weight on their shoulders at this difficult time.
7. Offer to Be There for Them After Work If They Need Support
Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened.
— Anatole France
© 2018 Sally Hayes