Helping a Child When a Pet Dies
We know that many people consider their pet to be part of the family. When a pet dies, the emotional loss and resulting grief can be as painful as the loss of a relative. It can be especially trying for children. It may be their first experience with death. But, death is an inevitable part of living life, and losing a pet can help kids accept this truth and learn how to cope.
Here are some Dos & Don’ts when talking to children about the death of a pet:
- If your pet is old or ill, talk with your kids about the possibility of the pet dying. It will help prepare them for what is to come.
- Choose a quiet time and place to break the news. Simply saying that the pet has died and won’t be coming back is a good start. Let their questions guide the conversation. The details do not have to be too in depth. Keep it simple.
- Don’t tell your kids that the pet has gone away, is asleep, or say anything that raises the hope that the pet may return. This uncertainty will get in the way of grieving the loss.
- Having a special burial or scattering ceremony can be helpful in the grieving process. Allow your children to be part of the planning. They can share a favorite story about the pet and/or can choose the urn, burial spot, or a toy to place with the pet.
- Tell your kids how you feel about the loss of your pet. You are the model of how to grieve; crying and sadness are natural responses.
Your veterinarian or local humane society can be a great resource if you are struggling with the loss of a pet or have questions about how to talk to your children about losing your furry friend.