Losing a pet is part of the cycle and it can be very painful and traumatic to your little ones if you do not know how to handle it. As with learning, a kid’s curiosity, awareness and understanding about death grows little by little. And there are so many parts that make up the entire concept of death — aging, life cycle, life span and what happens after death. That is quite a whole lot for a kid to learn.
Death is not something that your kid should be sheltered from. It begins as soon as the kid is able to notice that the dead leaves are beginning to fall off the tree. Learning about this from the people that she trusts and loves puts her at ease.
As a matter of fact, when your kid reaches age 4, he/she would start to wonder about death. So you must weave it into his/her dramatic play and introduce words like die, shoot, kill, dead. This is going to be good for them as this is all part of their learning process.
It is really hard for everyone to handle death, especially a member of the family. Though it is less likely that your kid would be exposed first on a person that is dying, thank goodness! More or less your kid’s first death experience would be the one regarding his pet. And as a parent, you should know how to deal with that.
Losing a Pet
When a child that is 7 years old and younger sees that his pet is dead:
- Don’t sugar coat. Less it more. Give a clear, clean information Sugar coating the reality would only complicate things. Simply tell your kid that your pet couldn’t walk, see, lick, bark, play, pee or poop.
- Do not avoid it. As sad and hard as it is, your pet has to experience sadness from the experience.
- Answer all his questions honestly and age appropriately.
- Do not mention cremation. If he asks what you are going to do with your pet’s body, it is wise to tell him that you will take it to vet since he has a special place for dead pets. Do not mention about cremation since it would be scary for him at his age.
What you are going to feel:
Different people experience grief in different ways. Besides your sorrow and loss, you may also experience the following emotions:
- Guilt may occur if you feel responsible for your pet’s death. It is pointless and often wrong to burden yourself with guilt for the accident or illness that claimed your pet’s life.
- Denial makes it difficult to accept that your pet is really gone. Some pet owners carry this to extremes, and fear their pet is still alive and suffering somewhere.
- Anger may be directed at the illness that killed your pet, the driver of the speeding car, the veterinarian who “failed” to save its life. Sometimes it is justified, but when carried to extremes, it distracts you from the important task of resolving your grief.
- Depression is a natural consequence of grief, but can leave you powerless to cope with your feelings. Extreme depression robs you of motivation and energy, causing you to dwell upon your sorrow.
Losing a pet is not that easy, I know. And the most important step is to accept it and be honest about your feelings. Do not ever deny your pain, anger and guilt. Express it by screaming, crying, talk it out, etc… Locking away doesn’t make it all go away. Others find comfort in writing poems, stories, photo collage or the likes. Do not be afraid to get another puppy since he/she may not the be the same as the old one but he/she will always bring a whole new happiness in your home.
Have you ever tried losing a pet? How did you handle the emotions? What did you tell your kids? Tell us your story below.