How To Help Your Children Cope With The Loss of A Family Pet
The family pet holds such a significant place in your life. This is especially true for your children. Often, for kids, their first pet is also their first best friend; a companion who was always with them as well as acting as a source of comfort and support. No one expects their pet’s health to decline or for something unexpected to happen, but unfortunately as your furry friend’s lifespan is shorter than your own, dealing with their loss is unavoidable.
For a child, it can be hard to fathom that their beloved pet won’t be there forever; death and loss are unrecognizably foreign ideas in their minds. As such, the unexpected event of a pet’s death can be extremely traumatic and difficult to process.
With limited experience with loss, children can feel a whole range of emotions, aside from sadness. Along with grief, your child may also feel guilt, confusion and even anger. While the loss of a pet is upsetting for everyone, as a parent, your children are likely to turn to you to find comfort and support. With that in mind, arming yourself with a few strategies to help both you and your child through the grieving process is a necessary step for healing for all involved. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of ways to help your child cope with this troubling event.
Keep Their Memory Alive
Thinking of a loss as something that is absolute, permanent or final can be such a baffling concept to wrap your head around. But, just because something is gone doesn’t mean the memories they left are erased. The memories and experiences you and your children shared with your pet will always remain. As such, finding a way to immortalize your lost pet is a great way to honor and celebrate them.
As a way to memorialize your family pet, you could create a DIY cremation urn and let your child be involved with the process. You could allow your little one to select photos to adorn the urn or even decide on the style of font to be used. Involving your child in this process will not only help them come to terms with their grief but will gift them with a sentimental memento that is personal to them.
Furthermore, if you decide to keep your pet’s ashes in an urn, it might be a good idea to find a designated place in your house to store it. Keeping your urn safe but visible, in a display cabinet for example, will mean your child has a place they can visit and will also emphasize to them the importance of keeping precious items safe.
Being Honest With Them
When faced with the dilemma of sharing the unfortunate news, it can be tempting to bend the truth or soften the blow with a white lie, but this isn’t necessarily the best course of action. As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child from pain. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely shelter your child from life’s many misfortunes, and loss just so happens to be one of life’s biggest lessons. As such, being honest with your children is important. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to go into the grisly details but telling the truth (while being uncomfortable) will allow your child to form a healthy relationship with loss. Telling your child that your pet has ‘gone to sleep’ or similar only serves to confuse them and can actually have an adverse effect.
Speaking in an honest matter will also help to open a line of communication between you and your child. Now, it’s important that you don’t try to tell your child how they should feel, as they are capable of formulating their own understanding and will process this event in their own personal way. Implying that your child should grieve in one particular way can be extremely harmful. Telling your child to ‘stop crying’ may seem like an insignificant comment, but can invertedly teach them to conceal how they feel.
The same can be said about you, as well. This means that you shouldn’t be afraid to express your own feelings to your children. Telling your child how you honestly feel without flowering your speech with positive words will help your child understand that sadness can be a natural and at times, healthy emotion.
Seek Professional Help
It’s okay if you feel ill-equipped to tackle this task; it’s definitely not an easy one. When you’re grieving yourself, it can be hard to be a pillar of support for everyone else. As such, if you find that your child is having a particularly troubling time coming to terms with this loss, it might be a good idea to seek help. Professional counselors are equipped with the tools to help your child make sense of their grief and may even offer you some techniques to assist your child.
In most cases, the loss of a pet will be marked as your child’s first brush with death. As no one can prepare for something like this happen, it’s important to allow your child to grieve in their own way. The ability to keep your pet’s memory alive will help your child cope with their difficult feelings and help them to realize that death isn’t always the end. Talking about your pet and reliving happier times will help break through the sadness and build a bridge to heal. If you give your child time to heal and reflect eventually the pain will dissipate and only the good memories will endure.
Nat Juchems is the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat helps those grieving the loss of a loved find the right memorial to cherish.
Before becoming the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat worked for six years in the memorials ecommerce industry as a Marketing Director and Ecommerce Director, using his skill set to manage powerful paid search and organic search campaigns as well as implement merchandising strategies and manage the software development teams that made everything work.