A Gentle and Healthy Approach to Children and Pet Loss
If we consider pets to be members of the family, our children certainly feel the same way. Kids tend to develop strong attachments to pets, often relating to them in the same way as siblings, playmates, and trusted confidants. The loss of a pet may be a child’s first experience with death, and how their grief is handled by the family can impact them throughout their life.
Children and pet loss is often viewed as a tricky subject, but it doesn’t have to be. Your friends at Goldorado Animal Hospital want you to know that we’re here to support you and your family as you navigate the aftermath of pet loss together.
Leading by Example
It’s natural to want to protect children from the devastating impact of a beloved pet’s death, but letting their grief unfold naturally will give them the opportunity to fully process the loss and to develop resilience along the way. Allowing your children to see you grieve and answering their questions openly and honestly (using age-appropriate language) is a huge part of the healing process.
Children and Pet Loss
Every child is different, and their age and level of understanding will help determine how they work through their emotions.
- Very young children may not fully grasp the permanence of death and may worry that their behavior caused a pet to “go away.” Play or art can be wonderful ways for kids to work through their grief. Writing about the pet or telling stories together can also be immensely healing.
- It’s normal for some kids to become concerned about the death of parents or other loved ones after a pet has died. Be available to talk through these emotions and offer lots of reassurance.
- Older kids understand death, and their responses to grief can be as varied as it is with adults. Make sure children understand that their feelings are normal, and encourage open and honest communication.
- There are many wonderful books on pet loss for kids of all ages that can spur important questions and discussions. Ask your local librarian for recommendations, and read them together with your children.
Encouraging children to participate in the process of saying goodbye to a pet is a powerful way to help them heal. Consider the following ideas to involve the whole family in honoring your pet’s memory:
- Make a scrapbook or frame a special picture of your pet
- Hold a memorial service
- Plant a tree or flower bed
- Name a star after your pet
Let Us Help
Allow us to offer our deepest condolences on the loss of your four-legged friend. If you’re struggling with how to manage children and pet loss, remember that many families find comfort in outside support. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help!