Having witnessed my own kids’ grief over the loss of pets, I included information about how to help them in my book, Peace in Passing: Comfort for Loving Humans During Animal Transitions. The second edition is coming out Spring 2022. Here is a portion of my book so assist you if your children are dealing with this difficult transition, too.
Advice from Helpguide.org
This useful advice from the wonderful folks at helpguide.org provides accurate, heartfelt information for parents.
- “Let your child see you express your own grief at the loss of the pet.If you don’t experience the same sense of loss as your child, respect their grief and let them express their feelings openly, without making them feel ashamed or guilty. Children should feel proud that they have so much compassion and care deeply about their animal companions.
- “Reassure your child that they weren’t responsible for the pet’s death. The death of a pet can raise a lot of questions and fears in a child. You may need to reassure your child that you, their parents, are not also likely to die. It’s important to talk about all their feelings and concerns.”
My kids grieved the loss of their pets
From my own experience, my children loved our animals and were very sad when they died. I have a memory of my son Pat holding his teddy bear hamster, ChiChi, who had just died. He was crying his eyes out.
Funeral for the small animals
We always had a funeral for the small animals (birds, hamsters, rats) and buried them on our property. The kids would find a box to put them in and decorate it. We would bury the box and say some good words about how we loved our animal. Sometimes my daughter Andrea would put flowers on the grave.
Preparing for grief over loss of their dog
For the dogs, we always talked to the children about what their physical condition was. We explained why and when we were going to release them from their bodies. We brought home the dogs’ ashes afterward.
When my granddaughter asked what the veterinarians were going to do with their dog Peanut’s body, I told the truth but tempered it somewhat. I explained that they were going to put her body in a very hot place so that it would turn to ashes. But I reminded her that Peanut wasn’t in the body anymore, she was in Heaven. And her family would get Peanut’s ashes back from the veterinarian as another way to remember her.
These simple acts acknowledged and honored our children’s grief and love for their animals. It also provided them with an example that adults take animal lives and their deaths seriously. I hope it helped my children become compassionate adults towards the people and animals that have come into their lives.
I have helped many families with transitions.
How have you helped your kids through their pets’ loss?