LET THEM GRIEVE
Children develop a very special and unconditionally loving relationship with their pets. When a pet dies, your child is going to feel a profound loss – a loss that can be as immense as the loss of a family member. As an adult, it is much easier to process, understand, and accept the loss of a pet. For a child, however, it can be as painful and confusing as the loss of a family member would be.
Your child needs to be allowed to express his or her pain, and you need to be there as a shoulder to lean on. You shouldn’t try to divert your kid’s attention from the tragedy – you just want to hold his or her hand while they get through it. Everyone has their own unique way of dealing with death, but most people experience the same basic stages: anger, denial, sadness, and acceptance.
Your child will have to accept the harsh reality of the loss, experience the intensely painful feelings that go along with the loss, adjust to their new environment now that their beloved animal is gone, and move on to embracing their future after this tragedy. They are not going to get over this overnight, and even if it seems like they have gotten over it, they might sporadically have feelings of depression and sadness for a long period of time after their initial mourning of the loss.
HAVE A FUNERAL
When a person dies, the funeral is a chance to remember the person and spend time mourning the loss. You should give your child the opportunity to grieve at a funeral for their pet. If you have a home with a yard, then you can have your funeral service in the back yard. Dig a grave for the animal in advance so as to avoid a messy scene during the memorial. You should set up a table with some pictures of your pet if you have them.
You should make a speech about the beloved pet, and everyone in your family should be given the opportunity to share their own memories and feelings about the animal. If you are not sure what to talk about, try recalling the day that you got the pet. Talk about the qualities that were so endearing to you. Allow your child and every family member to place a flower in the grave before you bury the animal’s body in the ground.
If you do not live in a place with a yard, or if you live in a rental where you are not permitted to dig in the yard, then you can still have a memorial service in your home. Your veterinarian will be able to send the animal to be cremated for you if you would like to do so.
TALK ABOUT IT
Make sure that you allow your child to get all of his or her feelings out. They shouldn’t hide their emotions, and you should encourage them to talk about their emotions. Some children have an immensely difficult time coping, and if you find that weeks go by without any progress in your child’s depression over the loss, you should consider seeking out a counselor for your child to talk to.
Sometimes an uninvolved third party can help children to get through the loss of a treasured pet. It is best to seek professional help so that your child does not develop a complex about death or an intense fear of dying.
GET A NEW PET
If your child loved their old pet, they are likely to love a new one. After a few weeks or months of mourning, your child will probably be ready for a new pet. Explain to them that they should not feel guilty, as if they are “replacing” their old pet; instead, they are going to form a new bond with a new animal.
The new pet will not be the same as the old one, but it will be a loveable animal that will bring great joy to your child’s life. Tell your child that you know that their former pet would want him or her to be happy with a new animal.The new pet