It’s unfortunate, but I was inspired to write this post based on what was said to me in the days, weeks, and even months after I lost Rascal. Not everyone understands the bond between a horse and rider, but that isn’t an excuse to say insensitive things out of a lack of understanding. I’ve put together a handy guide for those of you who are at a loss of what not to say to a friend, family member, or someone else you may know that is grieving over a horse. Each situation is different, so I certainly can’t give a one-size-fits-all script of the right things to say, but there are a few things that no one should ever say to anyone who is grieving. To be frank, it makes you look like an ass.
1. “It’s just a horse.” This is just incredibly insensitive, and it delegitimizes someone else’s grief which is not okay. Ever. Also, would you like someone else to say “it’s just a football game,” or “it’s just a concert”? I know those things are quite different on many levels, but a football game or a concert could be just as important to someone as a horse could be to someone else, so just do us all a favor, and don’t say it.
2. “Why are you still upset? It’s been (insert timeframe here) since he or she died.” I actually had someone say this to me the day after Rascal died. They were confused as to why I was still upset and barely able to make it through the day without crying because Rascal had died the day before. Do not try to put a timeframe on anyone’s grief. We all grieve in different ways, during different times. If I want to be upset a week after or a month after, then I have every right to be. If my grief isn’t affecting you, then why does it matter? I still cry at least once a week about Rascal, but I don’t let my emotions affect anyone else. I rarely talk about it with anyone, and I never let it affect my responsibilities or obligations. So really.. what does it matter to you?
3. “But the horse wasn’t even yours.” Someone said this recently about my still being upset over Rascal, and I was slightly livid about it. Not all of us have the ability to own a horse, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still bond with a horse we ride a lot. Rascal wasn’t my horse, though he was going to be, but I was pretty much the only person that rode him aside from one other little boy. I cared for him almost everyday, and I bought him things too. Ownership doesn’t give anyone the right to grieve. You can own a horse and not give two you-know-whats about it (I’ve seen this happen).
4. “You shouldn’t be upset about it. You have a (insert other pet, horse, friend, significant other here).” A horse is a unique animal just like a dog, cat, or other pet. At the time of Rascal’s death, I had two other horses. Someone said to me “well, you have two other horses, you shouldn’t be so upset about Rascal.” All of my horses have different characteristics and personalities, and they all have done different things for me. Having two others doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t be upset about another one dying. That’s like saying someone has three other grandparents so they shouldn’t be upset about the death of their fourth one.
5. “Things die, it’s a fact of life.” I think we are all aware of this fact. However, being aware of it doesn’t make death any easier. Don’t state the obvious. Just be supportive of your friend/family/loved one, and let them accept death on their own terms in their own time.
If someone you know loses a horse, please think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Words can be hurtful, especially in a delicate time like death. You may not understand the bond, but that doesn’t mean you have to be insensitive about it.
Has someone ever said something insensitive to you about a horse’s death? How did you deal? Let me know in the comments!