How To Help Your Kids Cope With Pet Loss

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A boy cuddling with his dog.

Pet owners know that losing their beloved pets will never be easy. However, not everyone understands how confusing and traumatic the death of a pet can be for children. This may be their first experience losing something or someone dearly close to them.

Most kids treat their pets as their best friends or even their siblings. Regardless of their kind, their pets offer them a special kind of bond and companionship they may not experience from other kids or humans.   

And so, as parents, it’s up to you to help your kids understand the concept of death and help them cope with their pet’s loss. You may witness them cry, feel scared, get angry, or be confused about the situation. They may also try to discuss or open up to the subject repeatedly, so you must be patient in dealing with your child’s grief. Some kids may even describe the experience as ‘the worst day of their life.’    

This article will give you a few tips to help your children cope with their beloved pet’s death in a healthy and productive way.   

1. Have An Honest Communication With Your Child   

After their pet’s death, don’t jump in right away to give unsolicited advice. Instead, start an honest communication with your child and explain the situation in a way appropriate for their age.   

For example, you can explain it in simple terms:   

‘Your pet got into an accident and was badly hurt. The vet tried their best to help him, but he still couldn’t get better. He has died, and I’m truly sorry.’   

Although this fact may hurt them, it’s better than trying to avoid the subject. Otherwise, failure to explain or communicate with them will only lead your child to blame themselves for their pet’s death. They may think their pet died due to their negligence or because of something they did. As much as possible, be there to assure them that their pet’s death is natural and inevitable, and it’s never their fault.   

2. Help Them Memorialize Their Pet  

Give your child an opportunity to memorialize their pet how they want. You can help them organize a proper burial or memorial service for their pet and invite their close friends or family members who genuinely understand the relationship between the deceased pet and your child.

If you only have a limited yard space that is insufficient for pet burial, you may consider availing of a dog cremation service. This way, you can keep the remains with you and let your child choose what to do with them.  

Perhaps they’d like to place the ashes in a jar and display the pot in their bedroom or on an altar. Or, maybe they’d like to scatter it in the garden or at their dog’s favorite beach or park. Allowing your child to memorialize their pet the way they prefer can help them overcome their grief and slowly accept the reality of their pet’s death. 

3. Be Ready To Answer Your Child’s Questions 

Some kids may already understand the concept of death if they learn it from school or the media. However, if your child has never been exposed to such a situation, it’s only understandable that they feel confused and will continuously bombard you with questions. Thus, be ready to answer their questions in the simplest way possible. Some questions you need to be prepared for are: 

  • Where is my pet now? 
  • Will I see my pet again? 
  • Has my pet gone to heaven? 
  • Will my pet see the angels? 

Be ready to answer these questions honestly, enough to satisfy the child without adding more confusion. Also, don’t forget to assure your child that animals have a shorter life span than humans, so they’ll age more quickly.  

4. Allow Your Child To Keep Their Pet’s Belongings

If your child wishes, allow them to keep something that belonged to their pet for remembrance. It can be their pet’s collar, leash, bedding, or toys. Having something that reminds them of their pet could help ease the sadness and the pain, especially if they still cry every night. Better yet, you can also teach your child other ways to express their grief healthily.  

For example, encourage them to write a letter for their pet or start a journal. They can also fill it with pictures of their pet and the memories they’ve shared in the past. You may also include photos of the other family members’ memories with the same pet. This way, your children can see that everyone in the family feels the same way and that they’re not alone in their grief. 

Key Takeaway 

Giving your child their very first pet may be one of their happiest moments. However, losing it can also be one of the worst moments in their life. Thus, remember to be there for your child during this devastating moment and keep the communication honest and open. If they’re feeling confused, angry, or scared, never leave them alone with these emotions.

Lastly, allow them to memorialize their pet how they want and teach them other healthy ways to process their grief.  

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