How to Help your Child Grieve the Loss of a Pet
Animals make their way into our lives in a multitude of ways. Whether it is through a gift, an unexpected adoption, or rescuing this animal. Whatever the case may be, our lives are changed forever the day we bring our pet home. Now the emotional connection that you experience with your pet is extremely personal and very real. Furthermore, if you bring this pet into an already existing family of you, your partner, and a child or two, the pet has a relationship with each individual.
Unfortunately, whether it is through old age, sickness, or a tragic accident your pet’s time in this life has come to an end. Now, this loss can affect your child on a deeper level than anticipated. Understanding how to help your child grieve the loss of a pet is a process that takes time. However, if it is done out of compassion and understanding, you and your child will grow closer together, and as well the child will have a deeper appreciation for the love and life they shared with their beloved pet. In order to help you know what you can do, here are a few ideas and concepts to understand to better help your grieving child after a loss of a pet.
P.S. If you want to see more help on pet loss, stories of pets, or share your pet's story check out our free Facebook group.
A Grieving Child: They Feel as Deeply as You
One of the most important things to remember when it comes to helping a grieving child over the loss of a pet is to always be honest when they ask you questions. Your child had a very deep relationship with your pet, one that you may have only seen the tip of the iceberg. When they do ask questions about how your pet died (trust us, they will) be open, soft-spoken, and truthful. As well, when a child is going through the grieving process it is important to understand that they might be feeling emotions they have never felt before. For example, they could be feeling emotional pain, worry, stress, sadness, or even anger for the first time. The biggest thing to help your child grieve is to first help them understand and recognize the emotion they are feeling. As well, you could try to talk through it with them. If they feel sadness or worry, identify the characteristics and the reason they are feeling that emotion. Secondly, express that is completely normal and acceptable to be feeling the way they are. Your child has lost a best friend, someone they loved unconditionally, it is going to be difficult for them. Understand where they are coming from, and do your best to listen, console, and comfort your child. One of the biggest things that will help your grieving child is for them to know that you are not trying to fix anything, but rather you are trying to comfort and help them through the healing process.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
As stated above, your child may not now they are going through the grieving process, unless you help them recognize they are. Whether the death of your pet was expected or a tragic accident, every child goes through the grieving process in a different and unique way; understanding what you can do to help with the grieving process is essential for your child to move forward. For example, your child may want to put on a memorial service for the pet. It may seem silly to adults, but it can be very helpful in the child’s grieving process by allowing the child to process the loss. Everyone says goodbye in their own way. The last thing you would want to do is hinder your child’s process by not being willing to try one of their ideas. In reality, holding a service for the family may help not only the child, but you as a parent because it can engrain a positive and sacred time for you to remember your animal, and can bring your family closer through what can be a difficult time for everyone.
Look to an Outside Voice
Sometimes the best way for a child to explain how he or she feels is through talking to someone who has had a similar experience. Now, this isn’t to disregard you as a parent, your child loves you and understands you are always there for them. However, when you get an outside voice, like through a pet loss hotline, your child is able to relate to people just like him or her. You can check out online message boards, pet loss hotlines, and even pet loss support groups.
Create a Personalized Keepsake for Your Child
Now your child may be too young to understand what is going on, or may just want something to always remember their beloved pet. In that situation, you can find customizable products at “Petventures.” - Whether it is a mug, book, shirt, or pillow. All of these wonderful products are personalized and can help your child grieve the loss of a pet. It allows them to have something with them at all times to remind them of the good memories that they had with their furry four-legged friend.
Anatole France said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” For your child, they experienced this love at a very young age and had to go through a very difficult time saying goodbye to their furry four-legged friend. Whether your child is going through the grieving process by figuring out the emotions they are feeling, a memorial service, or even an outside source Supporting and learning how to help your child grieve the loss of a pet, is a process that takes time and patience, but in the end, will deepen your relationship with your child and bring you closer together than ever before.