Few things are as painful as losing a beloved member of the family — and not just the two-legged variety. Pets quickly become part of the family due to their loyalty, their playfulness, and their protectiveness. So, it is only natural to experience grief after losing a pet.
Death is, unfortunately, one of the certainties of this life. But saying goodbye is never easy, and it’s particularly difficult for children since they may have a harder time making sense of it all.
Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to dealing with your child’s grief after losing a pet.
Talk It Out
Experiencing grief after the loss of a pet is normal and understandable. You need to explain to your children, at a level they can comprehend, what has happened.
Kids understand more than they’re given credit for.
So let them know their beloved pet is not coming back but is also no longer suffering. Explain to them that death is a normal, albeit unpleasant and discomforting, part of life, and that grieving is what often comes next for those still alive.
Ensure they know it’s okay to ask questions, to cry, and to experience a wide range of emotions ranging from sadness, to anger, to acceptance.
In line with teaching them that about the finality of death, you and your family should consider holding a simple funeral for a deceased pet. Check local regulations, however, should you desire to conduct the burial in your backyard.
After the funeral, have some family time during which you can all share your most treasured moments with your beloved family pet. This will help your children and everyone else in your family to grieve openly in a comforting environment.
When talking about losing a pet, you can also explore reading some children’s books on the topic like these.
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Like adults, children can have a hard time accepting the finality of death. It is not uncommon, for instance, for children who have lost a loved one to have trouble sleeping or to become irritable.
It’s important to help them through these situations.
Many children might not understand that experiencing grief after losing a pet is a common, natural emotion.
They will need your support as they struggle with what life will be like without their pet.
While you don’t want to condone bad behavior, you should be more understanding of any grief-related bouts of, for instance, irritability or even sullenness, given the circumstances.
Just let them know that you are there and are available anytime they need you.
Keep Them In The Loop
There may be times when you’ll need to euthanize your pet. Whether due to an accident, to an incurable disease, or to suffering owing to the rigors of old age, it might be necessary to have a vet put down your pet.
In such cases, involve your children in the process. Have the vet explain the situation — the condition of the pet, the euthanasia process, and what comes after.
Even though it will still be a blow when your pet is gone, your children will be better able to cope with their grief since they will have been part of the decision-making process.
Above all, if you lose a pet, be there for your children so they know they are not alone to deal with their grief in the days, weeks, and months after the tragedy.
Death is a normal part of life, and grief is a natural response to death.
So be that shoulder for your children to cry on. Let them know their feelings are valid and grieving a loved one — human or animal — is a process you’ll get through together.