Losing your pet can be a heartbreaking experience, especially if you’re not expecting it to happen. If you have children, it’s important to help them understand and process the loss of their pet so they can handle the pain and cope with the situation without feeling like they’re going crazy or that there’s something wrong with them. Here are three ways to help your kids deal with the loss of their pet.
Be aware that your kids will be devastated and may go through new feelings of sadness never experienced before when they first learn about their pet’s death. It can take a few days for them to come out of shock. To help them start coping, encourage them to talk about their pet and what happened in an open and non-judgmental environment, like at home or with friends and family members.
The best thing you can do is to be sensitive and patient as they express their emotions. Be mindful that their behavior may be erratic at first, but they will eventually settle down. Give them some time and some space to grieve in their own way. Talking about it is never easy, but it can help them cope with their feelings. Encourage them not to bottle up what they’re going through because you and your other children need to understand how much your child is grieving too.
Use TV, books, and toys to help them cope
TV shows and movies can help kids explore the feelings of pet loss. Movies such as All Dogs Go To Heaven and Marley & Me are great starting points. If your child is older, there are books available at your local library or bookstore about death and the grieving process, such as The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst and When Dinosaurs Die by Ruth Edwards. There are also children’s books about loss, like Martin’s Big Words by Pam Adams and Max Splat Gets That Feeling Too by Leah Wilcox. Toys can be comforting in their simplicity and familiarity, as long as they have sentimental value to your child. Of course, spending time with them after school or over weekends will also help fill the void.
Buying a family gift that the kids can open together is also another way to honor the loss of a pet. Laurelbox.com has small gifts specifically for this type of occasion. You can choose one of their gardening packets to plant something in honor of their pet or gift them each a personalized necklace from their pet collection.
Don’t Hide Your Feelings
Don’t be ashamed to show your kids that you’re sad too, and let them know it’s okay for them to cry. Sometimes they might not understand why you feel so sad. Explain that it’s because you miss their pet, but don’t worry, they will always have these memories. These are important lessons in life that you don’t want them missing out on. Keep pictures, and other mementos close by. Make sure they remember all the good times they had with their pet. It can be hard when our pets die, but we must also pay attention to how our children are feeling at this time too if they seem scared or sad, talk about what happened with them and remind them that it’s okay to feel those feelings without worrying about being weak.
The most important thing is for parents and children alike to be understanding. A pet is not only like family but will eventually be someone you miss seeing each day, just as much as that friend who’s away at college or that family member who has passed on. The grieving process can take weeks, months, or even years. We must keep this in mind and do our best to help them through it.