Owning a pet is an excellent source of happiness in our families. They offer a unique friendship and companionship in the lives of the younger members of our household. The joy we get is directly proportional to our grief when we lose them. Whether their demise is due to illness, accidents, or old age, it is often the children’s first close encounter with death. They feel the loss and miss their friend dearly.
How to Talk to Kids About Losing a Pet
Your kids probably developed a special bond with their pets. Their pet was always there to play with them after school. These animals comforted them when they were lonely. At nap times and in the evening, their pets probably snuggled up with them. Upon their pet’s death, tell your child what happened. Although you may spare details that may cause trauma, it is best to use simple and direct language. Allow them to ask questions. As much as you can, try to be honest.
Avoid euphemisms. Instead of saying, “Doggie went to sleep,” or “Kitty ran away,” don’t be afraid to use words like “death,” “dead,” or “dying.” Besides, not telling your child what happened may cause more confusion. It might cause them to be scared of dying when going to sleep. They might be sadder thinking their pet left them on purpose.
Considering Your Child’s Age
It’s crucial to consider how old your child is when explaining your pet’s death. Children two years old and under will feel anxious and sad, but they won’t understand how it happened. You can give them some extra love and attention during this time.
Kids three to five years old may understand death but not its permanence. They may wake up after a week and still look for their lost pet. Prepare to explain it to them more than once. It may take several weeks or months to understand that their pet is not returning.
Six to eight-year-olds may have already grasped what death is but might deny it is happening to someone they know. Pre-teens know that death is inevitable, even for them and those close to them.
Some children might blame themselves for their pet’s death. They might think their failure to take their dog to enough walks or being annoyed by their bird’s songs may have caused its death. Tell them how this has nothing to do with their pet’s demise. If they ask what happens after death, share with them your beliefs. If you don’t have an idea, telling them is also alright. Death, after all, is a mystery.
If your pet has been put to sleep, tell your child how you decided with medical advice. Tell them that their pet was in so much pain and that nothing can be done to treat it. Let your children decide if they want to be there during the procedure, and respect their decision. Older children can be emotionally mature to say goodbye and comfort their pets. The veterinarian can guide and explain what will happen to their pet’s body.
How to Help Your Child Through the Grieving Process
Like us adults, children express grief in many ways and varying intensities. They may act like they’re okay but suddenly see something that triggers intense grief. Validate their feelings. Let them know that crying and being sad is okay.
They will also observe how you deal with your grief. Crying in front of them is fine. Somehow, it can comfort them that you also love and miss your pet. However, try to regulate as extreme emotions, such as intense sobbing, may frighten your young children.
Remember that your child’s most probable first experience of the death of a loved one comes from losing their pet. Helping them cope and comprehend pet loss molds how they process these unfortunate encounters later in life.
Every child deals with this experience in their way. If your child is into books, you can read about what happens when animals pass on. These literary pieces open a dialogue about how they are going through the process.
It is vital to let your children know they can express their grief in whatever feels right. Be it crying, apathy, or numbness, there is neither a prescribed manner nor a set time limit to make them feel better.
Also, you don’t need to rush into getting a new pet immediately. Take time for healing to happen. It could take three, six, or twelve months. Different family members may need more or less time to achieve closure. As a family, decide which of your old pet’s possessions to keep, discard, or donate to a local shelter. When everyone is on the same page, you may choose a new pet. Avoid treating it like a replacement. Welcome it as a new companion into your family.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
If any of you in the family has constant sadness, rather than coming and going, it may be best to seek the help of a professional. Schedule a consult if your sadness lasts longer than a month. If your child consistently has difficulty sleeping or functioning in school, bring them to the counselor. Also, having bodily symptoms such as stomach or headaches that weren’t there before your pet’s death, may warrant professional help.
A memorial ritual is beneficial to honor your pet’s membership in the family. Planting a tree in your pet’s memory, gathering photos into an album, or even reminiscing on funny stories about them are all great ways to celebrate the life they spent with you. Involve young children by having them draw pictures, decorate a marker, or choose your pet’s favorite stuff to frame. Kids must understand that any sadness will fade, but good memories will live forever.
Memorial stones are decorative stones you can put in your yard or garden to remember a beloved pet. Especially if it is personalized according to your pet’s memory, it is a beautiful gesture to honor your pet and those who shared its life. Rainbow Bridge Pet Memorials offers customized pet memorial stones for your beloved pet. Learn more by calling us at our phone number, 208-253-4557, or our toll-free number, 1-866-276-2548. You can also send an email to [email protected].