Grief over the loss of a pet can be as anguishing as losing any loved one. Tears are triggered at the sight of an empty food bowl or a favorite toy. There’s a heart-breaking emptiness that comes from a loss of routine.
When we’re sad, eating healthy becomes less of a priority. In fact, we’re more inclined to grab the first thing we see. We might try to numb the pain of loss with sugary sweets and other less nutritious foods. We might even skip meals, citing a loss of appetite. In other words, being properly fed can be difficult when experiencing grief and loss - and the inevitable weight grief-related gain may follow.
A friend of mine recently wrote this:
I can remember not wanting to get out of bed for weeks after making the heart-wrenching decision to euthanize my ailing cat. The depression was deep and real. Taking care of myself was not a priority. Even though I sought support from friends and in online grief support groups, I still felt like I was going through this loss alone. I wish someone knew how hard it was to even get up each day, let alone do things like cook for myself or my family.
And that's the challenge. Many people don't know how to support others who are in the middle of pet loss. While it's easy to know what to do when a member of a friend's human family dies, often we're at a loss to know how to support someone mourning the loss of an animal companion.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew exactly how to help our friends who are undergoing the emotional and physical effects of grief related to pet loss? You can help as a friend of someone going through this kind of emotional pain by offering to bring over food. We'll guide you through how to avoid the pitfalls of inappropriate sympathy gift giving with these tips on how best to support a someone in pet loss with healthy food offerings.
Done Right: Healthy Food Befitting a Mourning Household
If you have a friend who recently lost a pet, you might wonder how you can help. Providing meals is a good way to show you care. You could opt for a simple meal kit delivery service for a short period of time to get them through the worst. But if that's not feasible, here are some best practices for how and what kinds of self-prepared food work best as gifts ot those who are grieving:
- Inquire About Preferences and Allergies: When you’re preparing a meal or two to bring to a grieving friend, ask him or her about any food allergies so that you can tailor your recipes accordingly. Make sure you know if there are other considerations, such as vegan, gluten-free, or kosher diet habits.
- Freezable Meals are Often More Convenient Appreciated: Meals that can be pulled out of the freezer and re-heated are much appreciated. Do put these meals in an oven-safe or microwave-safe container, along with directions for re-heating. If your friend has a slow cooker, there are recipes that can be pre-assembled, frozen, and then heated in the crockpot with minimal prep.
- Balance is Important: Be mindful that each meal should include a protein, a starch, and vegetables or fruits. Casseroles are a good way to combine all of these ingredients in one dish. Consider choosing recipes that are neither overly sweet or overly fatty, too..
- Breakfast and Lunch are Meals, Too: Fresh baked muffins, pre-made sandwiches and salads, or a nice container of homemade soup are also good choices so that the family has options for every meal of the day.
- Think About Stocking the Fridge and Cupboard: In addition to meals, provide some healthy snack foods, such as crudité, cheese, or nuts. To make it easier to choose these low fat snacks, prep them in advance so that they’re grab and go options. It’s best to avoid pre-packaged foods as they can be laden with hidden fats or chemicals.
Principles for Constructive Ways to Give Meals to Grieving Pet Parents
Choose the right foods for your gift of food is important - and the tips above should help you make healthy and beneficial choices. But it's more than just what foods are given - it's also how they are given. Follow these principles for the best ways to organize meal gifts for your friends:
- Get a Group Together: If you’re part of a group of friends, coordinate meal deliveries over the course of a few days or weeks. Do provide the group with a list of dietary concerns. Keep a list of what each person is bringing as you’ll want to avoid too much of the same type of dish. This list can also be used by the recipient of your generosity as reference when it comes time to sending thank you notes.
- Make It Easy to Eat: Grief can be overwhelming to the point that doing dishes is a challenge. Help them out by providing biodegradable disposal dishes and utensils. If you do provide a meal in a dish, use one that the person can either keep or dispose of later. It becomes hard to keep track of which dish belongs to whom, especially if the recipient is still grieving.
- Don't Socialize: When you drop off the meals, don't plan on sticking around to talk with the family. Instead, plan to make it a brief (less than five minute) stop during which you offer your gift and condolescences and then leave graciously to allow them to grieve in peace.
- Flowers and Other Treats Make a Nice Touch: A small bouquet of flowers, a sympathy card, or even a small memorial to the deceased pet can brighten a grieving pet parent’s day.
- Gift Cards to Restaurants Work, Too: If cooking isn’t your thing, your friend will appreciate a gift certificate for a meal out and a change of scenery.
- Remember, There’s No Time Limit on Grief: Moving forward from a loss is a process. It can take months, even years to fully reach the acceptance stage. If your friend is having a day full of painful memories, surprise him or her with a meal - even if it has been months since the loss.
Hopefully these guidelines with make it easy to organize you and those in your friend's support network as you plan to take meals as a way of loving them. If you've got other ideas and principles you think should be included, share them here!
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Health Disclaimer: I’m passionate about wellbeing and health but I’m not a medical professional, nor am I a licensed therapist. Any content you read on this site is intended for inspiration and for information only – by not means am I providing medical advice. Please consult your certified professional for personalized recommendations on the mental health or physical health ideas I write about.