For most kids, pets become an integral part of the family. Here are four ways to help your family cope after the loss of a beloved animal.
By Guest Blogger, Rayanne Morriss
Pets bring an unparalleled amount of joy to any family. For most kids, pets become an integral part of the family. This makes losing them even harder. Although it is impossible to protect your child from this loss and heartbreak, helping your child through the loss of a pet can help them get through the grieving process. Here are four ways to help your family cope after the loss of a beloved animal.
Breaking the News
As a parent, one of the most difficult rites of passage in raising children is telling your child that their pet has passed away. Before breaking this heartbreaking news, be sure to find a place that your child can easily express their feelings without fear of embarrassment. You do not know how they will react, so it is a good idea to avoid telling them in a public place. The age of the child will largely dictate how much information about the passing that you share. Older children will be able to process more complex pieces of information than younger kids. If you have chosen to euthanize the pet, be wary of using terms that indicate that the animal is being put to sleep. Younger children will take this literally and assume that the pet will eventually wake up. This may mean discussing with your child the process of a pet cremation or funeral to help your child grasp the finality of death. If the death is sudden and unexpected, you should let your child’s questions and concerns guide how you share such information.
It may be tempting to gloss over the truth, thinking it may be easier for your child to take the news if you fudge the details. Simply saying that the pet went to live on a farm or that it ran away will cause more harm than good. Eventually, the truth will come out, and your child may be angry at you for not telling them what really happened. It is also important that you do not sugarcoat the news. You can be firm and compassionate at the same time. Your child may have questions about where the pet went when it died. This is time to draw on your faith or say that you do not know. In the end, it is important to be truthful. Along this same line, you mustn’t be afraid to show your own feelings. You can set a good example for your children by showing them that it is acceptable to be sad. Embracing their feelings will help them to heal.
Once the shock of death has settled in, it is natural that your child will want to seek closure. Some children will express their grief through anger, while others will be sad. As a parent in this situation, your job is to help them find healthy outlets to express their emotions. Seeking closure is a natural part of the grieving process. This may mean that you need to have an official funeral to help your child to grasp the finality of death. Your child may also ask to get a new pet right away. Do not feel obligated to rush into this situation. Instead, let your child have the time to grieve and then move forward from there. Supporting and teaching your child how to cope with the loss of a pet is important to help them move forward.
One of the best ways to start the healing process is to look ahead and be positive through the grief. Remind your child that the pet was loved and had a good life with your family. You can ask your child’s help in selecting where to buy a pet urn to keep the cremated remains of their pet. Another good idea is to create some momento to honor the pet. Perhaps you want to create a photo collage or memory book? Some families find it healing to plant a memory tree in their backyard. This will give your child a place to go to remember the pet. Keeping a journal is also a good way for your child to put their feelings on paper to process them more effectively.
The death of a pet may be a child’s first experience with a loss of life. Approaching it with compassion and truth will help to prepare them for the inevitable losses that they will experience in life.