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Helping Children Grieve a Family Pet

Helping Children Grieve a Family Pet

Having a family pet can bring a lot of love, joy and companionship.  For many, they consider their animals similar to son and daughters, brothers or sister. The pet becomes a family member.  They are there when you wake up and go to sleep. They are there to cuddle and play with when you are going through a tough time.  Pets have a way of showing you love without condition in a way that no one can.

 

For many children the pets they have known have been in their lives as long as they can remember. Maybe it was a dog that Mom and Dad got as a young couple.  As time goes on, kids are born and are raised right next to that trusty dog. The kids love the dog and the dog loves the kids.

 

Just like humans, pets can get sick, have an accident or just get old.  There comes the time when the beloved pet passes away or has to be put down.  These times can be very hard for adults but sometimes even more confusing and full of grief for the children.

Be Open About Your Grief

Showing our children that grief is normal is the first step in helping them through this process. This shows children that mourning can be done in a healthy way. Let them see that you are also grieving and that sadness is a part of the process. They will then know that it is okay for them to be sad and to find ways to demonstrate their grief, just like you are doing.

Be Honest

It is always more beneficial to tell the kids the truth about what happened in an age appropriate way. While they may not need to know all the details of the pet’s death, telling them a false story isn’t helpful either. Creating a fantasy story to protect a child’s feelings can create trust issues in the long term when they are old enough to know the difference. If the pet has passed and they are told he ran away, they may be holding on to hope, believing that they could possibly come back some day. It is important to let them know the pet is not coming back and to teach them ways to say goodbye. This can help prepare them when they face other forms of loss in the future.

Find Ways to Remember Your Pet Together

As with any loss the biggest adjustment is no longer having the animal physically present.  Take the time to sit with the child and let them express their grief. Ask what they will miss about the pet and reminisce on what they loved to do with the pet.  Allow the kids to make something like a remembrance stone that will lie in the garden as a reminder. Having some form of ceremony to officially say goodbye and honor the pet is a good way for children to feel some closure. This gives them the chance to say goodbye. Teaching children that death is a natural part of life can help them understand how to deal with grief and loss as they move through life.  Even as time passes and the grief starts to subside, take time to remember and acknowledge the joy they brought.

 

One of the great things about pets is that even though the one lost is not replaceable, after some healing you may find you are ready to get a new pet. When you are your family are ready, a new family pet will surely bring a new love and joy to the family for years to come.

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