How to Help a Child Deal with the Loss of a Pet
Disclaimer: This is a collaborative post for which I receive a minimal sum.
For most of us, a pet is more than just an animal – it is an integral part of the family and friend and best and closest partner we have. Often, they are the first to greet us in the morning and after school and at the end of the work day. And they are our source of comfort, and friendship in any emotional state that is determined. We can not protect children from the loss of a pet, but we can certainly help them deal with it. The grieving process can help children learn how to deal with other breakups throughout their lives. Perhaps something as simple as giving the pet its own burial, will assist them greatly with healing. In this case, you could look at a casket for pets. We recently had our beloved dog Herky cremated and have his little urn on a shelf in the living room. Have the kids write memories about the pet and feel as if they are closing a door. It may take time but it is possible to help them.
So how to talk to kids and help them deal with the loss of a pet?
If the pet is very old or has a persistent illness, it is advisable to consider talking to the children before the death that is likely to occur. And in cases where it is necessary to put the pet to sleep, we can explain that: “The vets did everything they could but the pet was very sick”, “she was very sick now she can rest quietly and it will not hurt her”.
If the death of the pet is more sudden, what happened can be calmly explained. And let the child’s questions guide and lead the information that should be given to them. In toddlers, it may be a little difficult to explain well to them. At this age there is no understanding of the concept of “death”, and at this age we can say that the pet has died and we can not see them anymore, and most importantly explain that the child is not the cause of the death and that death is naturally a part of life. It is also important to avoid expressions such as “the animal won’t be coming back because it has died.” Don’t be so blunt about things. If the child wants more information, they will ask as long as they feel that we are not frightened by the subject, and thus will feel safe and comfortable doing so.
Age 4-6 years
Children aged four to six tend to see death as a temporary and reversible thing. They may believe that there is a possibility of bringing the pet back to life, by taking it to a doctor or giving medicine. The way of thinking that characterizes these ages sometimes evokes in them the belief that they are somehow causing the death of the pet themselves. Perhaps they had wished her something bad even if they thought badly of the pet usually. Therefore, they need repeated encouragement that they are not guilty.
Age 7-9 years
Children in the range of seven to nine can understand the idea that death is permanent. And the best approach is to encourage communication and offer short, simple answers to the questions they will have about the loss.
Adolescents and teens
Adolescents and teens tend to face the death of a pet like adults. However, most adults have more experience with death and the feelings that accompany loss. It is important to give words to the experience and talk about it, and share your experience.
The truth above all is to avoid trying to react to the event in a way that is not true. Death is a part of life and this is a way to show your child that it is a natural process and that it is OK to grieve. This may keep the child engaged in the long run, and it probably will not ease the sadness of losing the pet. The emotional experience of such an experience is an important part that will accompany us for the rest of our lives in dealing with difficult situations and separations we will experience and therefore it is important to express the emotions and also give place to sadness, confusion and other emotions that will accompany the loss. If the child asks what happens to the pet after it dies, because none of us really know, it’s also okay to say that you don’t know. Above all, they need to know that you can be encouraging and help them deal with the mourning.