The death of a family pet is difficult to deal with, especially for the children. As a parent, there are ways that you can help your child understand the loss and the feelings he or she is experiencing. Take a look at the following for ideas on how you can help your child cope with the passing of a much-loved pet.
Immediately after the loss
Depending on whether your pet’s death was expected or unexpected, you might have a few days to think about how to approach the subject or you might need to tell your child immediately. Remind them that if a pet dies in an accident or from illness that the pet is no longer in pain.
Talk about it
When you approach your child with the sad news that your pet has died, be open and share your own feelings. To take their mind off the event you could arrange a day out as there are many free family activities you can do together. Avoid making assumptions about how your child will feel. If they don’t open up when you are explaining how your pet passed away, then ask them how they are feeling and let them know that it is natural to feel sad. Explain what happened in simple terms to help young children understand. Be prepared to answer difficult questions about where the pet is now and what happens when pets or people die. Emphasize that the pet’s death is not their fault. Avoid saying that the pet was put to sleep, because this sometimes results in bedtime fears. For older children, allow enough time to get into deeper conversations. They might ask questions that require answers based on your personal and religious beliefs.
How to cope
The death of a pet can affect children more than adults. Losing a dog or cat can have the biggest impact because of the strong personal bonds that we form with them. The pet’s death can be an excellent opportunity to teach your child how to cope with the loss of a loved one. There are a number of children’s books and workbooks that can help them. If your child is having an especially difficult time coping, then a licensed counselor could help.
Memorializing and moving on
Much like with the loss of a human family member, the loss of a pet can be honored with a small funeral or memorial. Help your kids feel involved by asking them to choose a pet collar or toy that they would like to bury with or place next to the pet’s remains. Allow your kids to prepare a few sentences or a poem for the gathering if they wish. Having your pet cremated might be the best way to help explain where they are now and it offers children a visible reminder of their pet. Local pet cremation is an option that provides closure and remembrance. Children can easily understand tangible reminders of their pet. If the pet was lost around the holidays, you might even like to create an ornament with your child to memorialize the loss.
While pet loss can be a gloomy topic, talking things through and gathering together as a family to comfort one another can help. Remember that there are a number of ways that you and your family can find closure after the loss of a pet.