Losing a family pet may be your child’s first experience with death. Helping her through this very hard time can teach her about of death and dying.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, children may be angry when a pet dies. They may blame themselves or you for not saving the pet. They may feel guilty, sad or even afraid that other loved ones could be taken away, too.
To help kids deal with grief:
- Recognize your own grief. It’s OK for parents to show emotions. This can help show your children that it’s OK to be sad.
- Be honest. Telling a child that a pet “ran away” may cause him to be confused or angry if he finds out the truth.
- Avoid using words like “put to sleep”. Instead, talk to your child about what dying means. Talk about how the animal’s body “stopped working” and that the pet will not be coming back.
- Help your child work through their feelings. Let your child talk about her emotions. Some children find it helpful to write or draw. You can hold a memorial service or plant a flower or tree as a way to remember your beloved pet.
- Seek support. There are many options for pet-loss support, such as hotlines, grief counseling groups, and books or brochures.
Books for Children
- “Goodbye Mousie,” by Robie H. Harris (2001)
- “Kate, the Ghost Dog: Coping with the Death of a Pet,” by Wayne L. Wilson (2009)
- “Remember Rafferty,” by Joy Johnson (1991)
- “Jasper’s Day,” by Marjorie Blain Parker (2002)
- “What’s It Like in Heaven, Rudy?” by Stacy Raye Waibel (2014)
- “Dog Heaven,” by Cynthia Rylant (1995)
- “Cat Heaven,” by Cynthia Rylant (1997)