Losing the family pet can be a traumatic experience for all involved. For parents, it can be even more wrenching to see the effect on your children.
The age and maturity level of a child will affect his or her reactions in a variety of ways.
However, here are some general suggestions to help them through the grieving and, ultimately, the healing process:
- Have a ceremony for the pet to honour its passing and provide closure. Invite friends and loved ones to join in and show support.
- Encourage your child to express himself and be sure to give him or her plenty of hugs and reassurance. If this is the child’s first experience with death, it could bring on feelings of insecurity and fear for the safety of parents, siblings and loved ones.
- Never say that God took the pet. The child will fear God’s arbitrary choices.
- Never say that the pet was put to sleep. The child could become afraid of sleep.
- Tell the child’s teachers and caregivers about the pet’s death.
- Depending on the age of the child, you could encourage them to draw a picture of their pet; write it a letter; or begin a scrapbook or photo album for it.
There are also several books available for dealing with the loss of a pet. Some are written for the adults with grieving children. Others are written for the children themselves.
In my research, “Goodbye, Mousie” by Robie Harris has been cited a few times, as has “Saying Goodbye to Lulu” by Corrinne Demas.
However, I encourage you to do some searches and explore the options so that you pick ones that suit the age and temperament of your child.
If you have any suggestions to add, please feel free to leave your comment below. I welcome feedback.