How to Help Your Child Grieve the Loss of a Pet

Having a pet for the first time is perhaps one of the sweetest memories that your child can have. Pets not only serve as companions to their humans, but they can also be a confidante, a companion, or a four-legged adopted kid. For children who grow up with their pets, their furry buddies are their best friends. The memories that your child shared with them are priceless. When they finally have to say goodbye, your child can feel so much pain and sorrow that, at her age, could be impossible to handle on her own.

For some children, pet loss may be their first experience with the death of a loved one. Your child might blame you, the veterinarian, or even themselves for the death of a pet. When this happens, just be with them and understand where they are coming from. The degree of pain they are carrying on their shoulders could be more than they could handle. As adults who know better, we have to lead them towards letting go.

The period of grieving can go on from days to several years. Depression is a looming possibility, especially to younger children who spent most of their lives with the deceased pet. Such is a devastating experience, yet some may find it hard to grasp the amount of pain and trauma it brings. As parents or guardians of your children who just lost a pet, you should understand what they are going through, accept their emotions as valid and comfort them as much as you can.

For some children, pet loss may be their first experience with the death of a loved one.

The Stages of Grief

They say that the grief process varies from one person to another. It begins with denial, the stage in which a loved one’s sudden death is too much to handle. Overwhelmed by the situation, they refuse to believe that their pet is gone and create their scenarios. The feeling of anger follows next. Most of the time, they are looking for someone to blame. Maybe they feel inadequate for not being able to prolong or save the life of their pet. At this point, children may start bargaining to higher beings to bring back their pets. Bargaining, the third stage of grief, often goes hand-in-hand with anger as they feel deluged with guilt. After this, some might experience depression. This can be managed with the support of your family. Be patient and ease into things until acceptance occurs. By then, your child can now bear the reality of their loss and the sadness they feel will slowly fade away.

Steps You Can Take To Help Your Child

  • Give the child enough time to grieve properly and allow them to express it.
  • Always tell the child that their feelings are valid, and losing a pet can be as devastating as losing a friend or a loved one.
  • Be ready to lend your ears. Some children cope by reminiscing about their lives with their pets, as this can help ease their pain.
  • Give them a journal where they can express all their deepest feelings. Writing in a journal is a therapeutic way to ease someone's sadness.
  • You can’t force them to feel better by getting a new pet. While it could help in the future, a new pet can never fully replace the first one.
  • Do not try to hide the truth from your child by saying that the pet got lost or ran away, as this can hurt the child more when they learn the truth. Giving them false hopes will make them feel betrayed and may cause even more problems later on.
  • Spend time with them. Take them to the leisure parks, go to the movies, or do their hobbies with them.
  • Make a memorial for the deceased pet.

Losing a pet is never easy for anyone. Imagine being with a close friend for years, and then in one morning, they are gone. It’s such a painful experience, especially for children. As adults who are mature enough to handle these feelings better, you must support them emotionally.