I am so very sorry to hear that! Naturally, you want to help your boyfriend during this difficult time. Experts suggest:
Allowing your BF to cry…it’s natural for men, too.
Comforting your BF according to his wishes.
Giving yourself permission to grieve also.
Choosing your words carefully—it makes a big difference.
Check- in with your BF re: his basic needs—is he paying attention?
Support his taking time off from work.
Whether it’s your cat, your boyfriend’s, a colleague’s or anyone else you know, any pet passing is a sad moment indeed.
These furry creatures worm their way into our lives and hearts. It is difficult to let them go.
Here are 10 ways to support your boyfriend during this difficult time.
1. Allow your boyfriend to cry over his cat’s death
Men, like all humans, cry. True, they may not do it often, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t natural when a man cries.
As a Reddit forum poster put it: “I’m not a crying man, but my cat died. And I just can’t handle it. I have never loved anybody as much as her. I haven’t stopped crying for 4 hours. She was only 4 years old. I just can’t handle it. I miss you dearly Kiara.”
This post was supported by quite a few men, one of whom said: “Look…I’m a 57 year old man, who lost a beloved cat two years ago, and it was like losing a human relative.”
Since your boyfriend’s cat just died, it is probable that he is going to be more than sad—he is going to be grief stricken.
Grief stricken people cry. It’s natural.
The data shows that pet deaths can be just as traumatic—sometimes even more so—than those of family members.
Getting those emotions out into the open is the correct way to begin to heal.
So, get out the tissues and be the strong and comforting shoulder your BF needs during this difficult time.
2. Comfort your boyfriend only if and when he wants it
Even though his cat has died, your boyfriend may not want your comfort just yet.
A Yahoo forum answer said it like this: “Most men don’t like being comforted right away; they need a little space to sort their emotions out.”
This answer then suggested that we should behave in the following way:
- Let your boyfriend know you are very sorry that his cat has died.
- Reassure your boyfriend that you will be there for him as needed, for whatever is needed…including a shoulder to cry on.
- Call or check in once in a while to see how things are going.
In other words, allow your boyfriend to control the amount and pace of the comfort you are ready to give.
Another answer to this same posting recommended being transparent about your dilemma regarding how to behave during this sad time.
This answer said to straightforwardly tell your boyfriend that you are not quite sure how best to comfort him.
On the one hand, you want to support him and be there for him. On the other hand, you don’t want to make a pest of yourself.
So, you are relying on him reaching out to you when he wants a loving, sympathetic ear and letting you know when he needs some alone time.
3. You are allowed to grieve, too
A Reddit post expressed how “emotionally wrecked” they felt over a cat that wasn’t even theirs but that they had loved like their own.
In a sense, this person felt that they didn’t deserve or have the right to grieve.
One of my daughters and her family are dog lovers. Their first dog was with them for less than a year before she died of a rare cancer.
I saw this dog perhaps once a week (when I visited) and still felt totally torn up about her death.
Their second dog was with them for quite a few years. He came to the family shortly before the birth of their first child and died from intestinal complications about 5 years later.
We were all devastated…especially since this happened shortly before their work relocation abroad.
They had filled out all the forms, gotten him a special travel cage…in short, made all the arrangements.
We all cried and cried, then walked around with heavy hearts for almost a year!
(I should mention that I don’t even like dogs really. I am more of a cat person, but what can you do?)
Your grief over your boyfriend’s cat’s death is natural and completely legit.
You have the right to grieve.
Not to do so would not only be wrong but would also be disrespectful to the memory of this beloved cat.
4. Accept that these things happen: no denial, no guilt
Has your relationship with your boyfriend, meant that he was not around his cat as often as before?
Perhaps you and your boyfriend live far apart, so time spent at your place was not time spent with or around his pet.
Maybe even when you are at his place, you two are busy being a couple, so he didn’t interact with his cat as much as he used to.
One Reddit post talked about this very situation.
The poster said that they felt guilty about this; as if in some way, this caused the cat’s death.
This was made worse by the fact that the boyfriend kept saying “these things happen,” leading the poster to feel that he was in denial.
None of the answers supported the poster’s feeling.
All the responses agreed that accepting pets die, even when they are well taken care of, is not a sign of denial.
Further, no answer even gave a hint of a connection between the reduced time the boyfriend spent with his cat and the fact that the cat died.
Since cats usually have shorter lifespans than humans, it is logical that one human may go through several feline pets in their lifetime, even though they take the best care of their pets.
5. Choose your words carefully
Here are their expert recommendations.
“When and if you need me, I am here for you.”—You are, right?
“I can not imagine what you are going through right now.”—You can’t because the same situation is different for each person.
“You and (Pet’s name) shared a deep love. I remember the time…(and share a particularly wonderful memory).”—Remembering the good times can ease the heartache.
“You and your cat shared a close bond, so it’s logical that you are grieving so much.”—Sometimes people feel silly for such grief over a dead pet. This can help.
“(Pet’s name) loved you very much. (Pet’s name) knows that any decisions you made for them were carefully thought out, for their benefit, and made in love.”—Although euthanasia can be the correct option, it can leave pet owners with lots of guilt and self-doubt.
They can feel as if their pet is judging them for their death. Saying this can relieve the burden.
“(Pet’s name) is in a better place.”—Really? Even if your boyfriend’s cat was in very bad health at the end, your boyfriend probably still wishes his cat were with him.
“(Pet’s name) was very old/sick/etc., so it’s probably for the best.”—Similar to the one above, it may well be, but that’s not going to make your boyfriend miss his cat any less.
“Come on. You have to get over it. (Pet’s name) was just a cat.”—Nope! Your boyfriend’s cat was a living, breathing member of his family.
He can’t just ‘get over’ the death.
“So, when do you think you’ll be getting another cat.”—Each cat is special. Your boyfriend cannot replace the one he lost with another one.
You wouldn’t say this to someone who lost their child, would you? For many people, their pets are their children.
6. Check in about your boyfriend’s basic needs
In sad times, people often forget to take care of themselves.
Since your boyfriend’s cat died, has he been eating, drinking, getting enough rest?
Gently checking in about these necessary habits is a good way to make sure that your boyfriend is still attending to his basic needs.
You can say something such as:
“Listen, have you eaten lately? I’d love to get/prepare you something.”
“When was the last time you drank anything? What about a glass of water, a cup of coffee/tea, a drink of juice, etc.?”
“Have you rested/slept recently? Perhaps now is a good time to take a nap/get some sleep.”
7. Offer (perhaps even push for) healthy distractions
The body needs a break from grieving, even if it is just for a little while.
Most likely, his cat’s death is occupying his mind so much that the last thing your boyfriend wants to do is take a walk, spend some time in nature, go out to a cafe or spend some time helping others as a volunteer.
Yet, these things are vital. First of all, healthy distractions give the body a chance to recharge.
Second, they bring a sense of proportion to keep your boyfriend balanced.
Lastly, exercise, fresh air, and getting out of the house will benefit your boyfriend’s physical, mental, and emotional health.
Be a little bit insistent.
Obviously you don’t want to be a control freak, but you should realize that your boyfriend will probably resist your suggestions.
The expert recommendation is to encourage your boyfriend to agree to be distracted for a short while, even though he doesn’t want to.
Of course, the final decision is his, and you should understandingly accept his right to choose.
8. Support your boyfriend’s decision to take time off from work
When a family member dies, it is acceptable to take time off from work.
One of the myths about pet deaths is that taking time off from work is for weaklings, or worse, others will think they are crazy.
The truth is that for some, perhaps your boyfriend included, working while grieving is just too much of a strain.
Different employers have different attitudes about taking time off from work on the death of a pet.
Some are compassionate, even offering ‘fur-ternity leave’ to spend extra bonding time with a new pet.
Others are not so understanding.
Have your boyfriend’s back
If you don’t agree with your BF’s decision, keep your opinions to yourself.
In case your boyfriend has had to take a leave without pay, see how you can help out financially (if needed) by paying a bill, keeping the fridge filled, paying for the next gas station fill-up, etc.
Perhaps your boyfriend even had to quit his job. Reassure him that another one is waiting for him as soon as he is ready to go back to work…and help out financially (if needed).
9. Physical distance doesn’t matter
You say you and your boyfriend are in a long-distance relationship?
No problem. Today’s tech options mean that long-distance support is totally do-able.
Two widely-read Yahoo forum authors shared their experiences.
Mobile phone—your main hub of operations
Answer your boyfriend’s calls at any time of the day…or night.
If he’s in the mood to talk, great. If not, a shared silence can also be very meaningful.
You saw them when he first posted them. Now, see them again when he re-posts.
Don’t ask him to stop. Find kind things to say about them again…even if you get bored of the repeats.
Check in frequently
Send a loving text or some supportive emojis.
Post a link to a humorous meme or video, so your boyfriend can have a healthy laugh at this difficult time.
Remind your boyfriend that his cat would want him to live his life well.
10. Honor the memory
For many pet owners, it is very important to create some type of memorial to their pet.
You will need to be guided by your boyfriend’s wishes.
Here are some ideas you can suggest when you feel it is the right time.
Pet burial service
The burial service for your boyfriend’s cat can be as simple or as elaborate as your boyfriend wishes.
A burial service is always a very personal and individual event, so general advice is not very useful in my opinion.
Pets can be buried in home gardens (if the local laws allow it) or in pet cemeteries.
They can also be cremated.
Your boyfriend can find a pet cemetery/crematory with the help of the IAOPCC (International Association Of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories).
Many companies sell pet headstones, grave markers, and urns for ashes. Here is one of them.
I found an article with a collection of several companies that create memorabilia from pet remains.
- Art From Ashes: The ashes of your boyfriend’s cat can be made into a colorful, handcrafted sculpture such as a paperweight, keychain, bracelet, friendship ball or suncatcher.
- Everlife Memorials: A wide range of products including cremation jewelry (stores a small amount of the pet’s ashes inside), glass keepsakes which incorporate some of the pet’s ashes into the piece, and laser-engraved plaques created from your boyfriend’s favorite pictures of his cat.
- Life Gem: The ashes of your boyfriend’s cat would be turned into a high-quality, crafted diamond.
- Remember Rocks: Your boyfriend can choose a real, stone rock, and engrave it with the name and dates of his beloved cat.
Post on a Pet Grief Forum
Grieving.com has a special section in which pet owners can post stories and pictures of their beloved pets which have passed.
A Memorial Picture
A Yahoo forum suggestion was to choose a great picture of the pet, have professionals print it in a large size, frame it, and hang it up in a place of honor.
Again, my sympathies to you both!
Writer: Lisa Aharon