Loosing a pet can be very difficult for anyone but especially for children if they have never experienced grief and loss before. I can remember when I learned, at age 21, that my mother had taken my dog, Spot, to the Vet a couple of weeks earlier and had her put down. I found out weeks later from a friend that my best friend, my furry sibling for 18 years, (I was an only child and Spot filled that sibling void) was gone and I never had the opportunity to say goodbye. I was devasted for years.
The experience of your pet’s death may be your children’s first experience with loss and feelings of grief. This experience presents an opportunity for you to teach your children to express grief in emotionally healthy ways, free of shame or embarrassment.
Children can learn and grow from the grief if the adults in their lives follow some very important key recommendations:
BE AS HONEST AS POSSIBLE
It’s tempting to try to protect children from any kind of emotional pain. Yet, attempting to “soften the blow” by telling children that a pet ‘ran away’ or ‘went to live with someone else’ or “Charlie is still at the Vet hospital” only creates a different kind of pain. Losing a pet under any circumstances will cause children to grieve and thinking that a family pet ran away may add feelings of abandonment and rejection. They will learn the truth and then guilt can set in around them not being there for their special friend to say goodbye.
ALLOW CHILDREN TO SAY GOOD-BYE
Let your children say good-bye to their special friend. If a pet dies suddenly, it can be beneficial for your child to see the pet’s body and be able to say good-bye in whatever way they are comfortable. This may include touching the pet, holding and hugging the pet, and even spending time alone with the pet’s body. Depending on where the pet’s death occurs, either you or your veterinarian can clean the pet’s fur of any blood, remove any medical equipment or supplies (catheters, tape, etc.) and position the body so it is soothing to see, perhaps curled into a pet bed or nestled into a container that has been lined with a soft blanket.
INVOLVE CHILDREN IN THE EUTHANASIA PROCESS
Ask your children if they would like to attend when your pet takes their last breath. Let it be their decision and don’t pressure them either way. The key to a comforting good-bye process for children is how well they are prepared to face their pet’s death. Speak with your veterinarian before your pet is euthanized so you are well informed about the procedures your child will witness. Children who are well prepared can usually handle the intense emotions that are part of euthanasia. It is very healing and beneficial for children to say a personal good-bye to a loved one who has died.
ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO MAKE THEIR OWN CHOICES
Children should be allowed to make their own choices about how much they wish to be involved with the process of saying good-bye to a pet. Older children may choose to be with a pet when the euthanasia is performed, while younger children may choose to say good-bye while their pet is still alive. Other children may choose to view a pet’s body only after death has occurred, reassuring themselves that their beloved pet has really died. Very young children don’t really understand death and have short attention spans. If your young child wants to be included, it’s a good idea to ask a friend to be with your family when your pet dies, so he or she can take care of your young child. This allows you and your older children uninterrupted time to say your own good-byes.
ALLOW TIME FOR GRIEF
Since children have shorter attention spans than adults and because they express their grief differently, be aware that your children may grieve the loss in “short bursts”. Children are unable to sustain intense grief emotions for long periods of time. It is normal for children to go from crying and being very upset one minute, to wanting to go and play the next. This is not a sign of indifference or poor coping; it is simply they way in which they need to work through their grief.
As a caring parent, it may be tempting for you to try to “cheer up” your grieving children by immediately adopting a new pet. Sometimes this works and it is often at the children’s own request. However, while some people are able to bond with a new pet and grieve for the one who died at the same time, there’s no “right” time to adopt a new pet. You want to be sure that your children don’t get the message that a family member who dies is easily replaceable.
While adopting a new pet may help your whole family feel better, grieving together can also bring you closer together. Then, when everyone feels ready, a new pet can join you and find his or her own joyful place in your family.
PAYING TRIBUTE AS A FAMILY
Some children may want to do something special for their pet. Honoring your pet’s life is a beautiful way to pay tribute and say good-bye. These rituals are very important in your grief and mourning processes.
Here are some examples of how you and your children can pay tribute:
- Plant a tree/ flower/ bush and create a Memorial Garden. Your child may want to pick a special statue to have in this exclusive location.
- Reflect and share as a family, things that you and your pet did to share your love.
- Go to your local animal shelter and make a donation in your pet’s name.
- Create a social media Memorial post to share with their friends.
- Invite your children to journal all the wonderful times they shared with their pet.
- Play and share audios and videos of your pet and your family.
- Hold a candle lighting tribute.
Need help coping with the loss of your pet, or struggling with moving forward after the loss of your pet? I can help you!
- One on One Consultation:
I offer a 60 or 90 minute consultation called: Pet Loss: Preparing for it, Going Through It, Moving Forward.
For more details about it or to schedule a consultation please visit: https://asksuelondon.ca/product/pet-loss-preparing-for-it-going-through-it-moving-forward-90-minutes/
- Healing eBook
I also have a healing eBook that you can download immediately called: Signs From Your Beloved Pets. For more details and to purchase please visit: https://asksuelondon.ca/product/signs-from-your-beloved-pets/
- Healing Free downloadable workshop: Signs From Your Beloved Pet
Download this FREE workshop: Signs From Your Beloved Pet
About the author: Sue London, The Animal Communicator
Sue London is a globally-renowned animal communicator. She has helped thousands of people, through healing, coping with emotional trauma, as well as providing tools to deal with behaviors of difficult pets.
She has dedicated her life to helping others, to deeply connect with their own true self and with their animals, both living and crossed over.
Having survived two near-death experiences that gave her direct witness to the “other side”, Sue has served as a bridge between our two worlds and has used her experience to help bring peace and healing to people and their pets. Sue is also the author of a series of best-selling books that focus on pet issues. Some titles include: Signs From Your Beloved Pets, Rocky’s Trip To The Hospital and Rocky’s Positive Thoughts Coloring Book. The messages she is able to channel through the hearts and souls of pets, have helped to provide closure, heal relationships and bring peace and understanding that may never have been possible without this empathic bridge. Sue is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, as the experiences she has faced has made her a new and better person. She can truly understand what others are going through, and authentically connect with them and their animals, to help them find peace through her life-changing healing methods.