Telling children about the loss of a pet can be difficult to discuss. You don't want to make your children feel sadder than they already are but you want to make sure they get through this grieving process in a healthy way. In this article, learn ways to discuss this sensitive subject with your children so they understand and come to terms with the loss of their pet.
Consider the Age of Your Children
Before you begin discussing the death of a pet with your children, consider the youngsters' ages and how much they will be able to process. You may find it helpful to discuss the subject with them separately so that you can explain what has happened in a terns all of them will understand.
The other benefit of discussing the death of a pet with your children separately is that you will be able to give each of them individual comfort and answer questions without having your other children interject. Comforting and giving your children extra attention during this difficult time will help them feel secure and safe because they have you to lean on.
Telling Children About the Loss of a Pet: Help Your Children Grieve
When telling children about the loss of a pet, one of the best things you can be is open and honest with them. This means that telling your children that your pet has gone to live with someone else will only confuse them and ask questions about why your pet had to leave. Discussing death with your children may not be comfortable but it's important for them to learn about it and deal with it effectively.
Telling Your Children About the Death
Approach the subject calmly and sensitively. If you are crying right from the start, your children will feel your anxiety and will become anxious themselves. While you don't have to hide your crying when discussing the death with your children, it's best not to come running into their room upset.
Start the discussion slowly by telling them about the condition of your pet that led to the death. For instance, if your pet had an illness, ask your children if they remember taking the pet to the vet. Once they understand that, you can break the news of the death.
What to do After Breaking the News
Once you've told your children that their pet has died, it's time to do some damage control. Depending on how they took the news, you can explain what death means. For example, that their pet will not be around the house anymore and they won't be able to play, touch or see him/her anymore.
At this point, you may start getting many questions about death. You might even be surprised at how much insight they have on the topic. Here are some ways you can handle some of the tough questions:
- Where has our pet gone?
Depending on your religion, you may want to handle this according to your faith. For example, if you are a Christian family, you may want to explain Heaven and that God is now taking good care of your pet.If you don't want to approach this question with your faith, you can explain that when a pet is no longer living, he or she must be buried.
- Is he/she in pain?
This is a good question to answer because it will give your children some relief. You can simply answer that the pet can no longer feel pain due to his/her illness.
- Why did he/she have to die?
You can approach this in a number of ways -- again considering the age of your children -- you can concentrate on the illness that took your pet, you can focus on your faith and that God decided it was time for your pet to live with Him or a combination of both.
- Will my pet ever come back?
It may hurt you and your children to tell them that your pet will no longer return, but it is necessary that they receive closure by knowing that they will never see their pet again.
Helping Your Children With Closure
One of the most important ways you can help your children grieve is by helping them gain closure by performing a memorial service for the pet. You can either bury the pet with them or do it beforehand and then bring them to the location.
Have your children write a poem or letter about how they feel or draw pictures. You can also have them create a memorial plaque or a box with some of your pet's favorite things and bury near the pet's gravesite.
At the landmark, have your children say something about the pet and how they feel. It's a good idea for you to join in so that they know they are not alone in these feelings.
The final part of the memorial is to say goodbye to the pet. Each person should say farewell and then you all should walk away together.
Remember, share in the disappointment and grief you feel with your children. It will make them feel as though their feelings are normal and they will follow your lead on recovering from this difficult situation. Don't rush your children to grieve and always provide comfort as much as needed.