As parents, we do our best to shield our kids from pain and grief, but unfortunately, these emotions are a part of life. When our nine-year-old dog passed away last summer, we took this opportunity to teach our children about loss and how to handle the emotions we feel when we lose someone or something near and dear to our hearts.
There were tears and lots of questions, but the kids got through this tough time with grace and composure.
Here's how you can help your child cope with the loss of a family pet.
Hold a Memorial Service
Holding a ceremony for the lost pet is a personal decision, and some parents may not feel comfortable with the idea (that's perfectly fine). But they do provide some closure and are helpful in many ways.
The ceremony can be something simple, and there's no need to actually bury the pet. You can plant flowers in the garden as part of the service or simply give everyone an opportunity to share their favorite memory of the pet.
Talk and Read Helpful Books About Grief
Death is an uncomfortable topic for many adults, but it's important to talk to your children about the loss. We explained the permanency of death to our kids and encouraged them to ask questions about what happened.
We also encouraged them to talk about our lost pup as much as they wanted and gave plenty of hugs.
Honor Your Pet's Memory
Honoring your pet's memory in some way can bring comfort and help in accepting the loss. The pet isn't simply forgotten about, but remembered and celebrated for his funny antics or quirky personality.
Some people plant flowers in memory of their pets or hang memory ornaments on the tree. Others place stones in the garden with the pet's name or photo and a sweet poem. Another nice idea is to have an artist paint or draw your pet's portrait, and hang that portrait on the wall. This way, your pet can be remembered always and will remain a part of the family.
If at all possible, get your child involved in this process. Maybe they can make their own memorial stones (they sell kits online and in craft stores), or have them plant the flowers. If you're going with the portrait idea, maybe the kids can choose the place to hang the picture.
Be as Honest as Possible
No one likes to think about death, let alone talk about it. But we all must face it at some point. When talking to our kids, we found it helpful to be as honest as possible without scaring them or making the situation overly negative. We explained that our beloved pup was not coming home, and that it had nothing to do with their actions.
Being honest is tough, but sugar-coating the situation too much may make it more difficult for them to cope with loss in the future.