Whether you’re 5 or 50, you have created a connection with your pet that’s extremely special. Suddenly your companion is gone, and that’s a lot to deal with at any age. Today we’re focussing on how children deal with the death of a pet and we’ve put together these ideas to help children cope with pet loss.
For most children, losing a family pet is their first experience of bereavement so, while it is extremely sad, it is also an important learning moment for them. It’s likely that your child has known this pet for their entire life so remember this will be the first time they have experienced life without them.
1. Use simple language
As adults we are often guilty of skirting around the subject of death, particularly when talking to children. It’s actually better to use clear language; instead of saying ‘lost’ or ‘gone to sleep’ say ‘dead’ or ‘died’. It’s also a good idea to talk about what dying means for all living things and explain that their pet is no longer tired, hungry, or in pain.
2. Write a letter or story
It can be hard for children to talk about how they are feeling. Instead, ask them to write a letter to their pet – this may encourage them to think about how they feel. Let them decide whether they want you to read it or would prefer to keep it private. Alternatively, try writing a story with pictures to help them express their emotions about the loss of their pet.
If you need some inspiration there is a “I Miss My Pet” printable workbook on the RainbowsBridge.com website.
3. Read a bereavement book
4. Create a memorial stone
Whether you are burying your pet in the garden or having them cremated, creating a memorial stone is an excellent way to pay tribute to your pet. Find a nice stone or buy a small stepping stone/paving slab and use acrylic paints to decorate it.
5. Fill a memory box
If your child wants to keep mementos of their pet why not put them in a memory box? You can include photos, their collar, a favourite toy and anything else you like. You can open it up and look through the items whenever they are missing their pet and talk about the good times.
Grief is a unique experience for everyone, but we hope some of these tips have given you ideas of how you can help children cope with pet loss. At Dignity, we often welcome families with children to visit with their pet to say a final farewell as this can also help with the process.
At the moment our farewell rooms are closed – please see our latest COVID-19 advice for opening information.