Comforting Your Child After The Loss of a Pet
Helping children through the death of a pet can feel like a hard task, but there are ways to help them in this tough time. In this article, we include some helpful information to make the process easier for you.
Coping With Loss
For some children, your family cat, dog, hamster, or fish has been with them since day one. They've built their lives around caring for them and know them as part of the family.
Every child will act differently after the death of a pet. This can depend on their age and development. It may take them a couple of hours or even days to process the death and begin to show any signs of emotion. Try to be patient and kind, supporting and encouraging them to accept feelings as they have them.
Being honest with them will help them understand what is happening, telling them their pet has ‘gone to the farm’, ‘they are visiting friends’ or ‘they have been put to sleep’ can cause confusion and lead to questions on why they weren’t good enough for the pet to stay or worries about going to sleep.
Be guided by your child and their personality. Gently explaining to them their pet has died and what that means for their daily life will help them to come to terms with what has happened. You don’t need to go into all the details. Let them express themselves in the ways they know best and try to answer any questions they might have.
Even if they have been able to say goodbye, it can be hard for a child to process that when they wake up their much-loved pet might not be there. Try to explain in the best ways you can if they don’t understand.
Let Them Express Their Emotions
Letting them express how they are feeling will help significantly as they process the event. As mentioned, they might not respond straight away. Give them time to realise what has happened, letting them know that you will be there when they need to talk or even just need a hug. If they are not showing you that they are grieving it is still important to remind them they don’t need to face it alone.
If you think they are able to understand what euthanasia is, having a chat about it can allow them to feel included in the process. Phrases like ‘going to sleep' sounds like their pet is going to have a nap, which might cause more confusion.
Here are a few books which may be helpful (depending on the age of your child) to help you to talk to them about the loss of a pet.
Books such as:
Rainbow Bridge: A visit to pet paradise
The Invisible Leash: A Story Celebrating Love After the Loss of a Pet
Goodbye Mog: a touching story about a fictional cat
Find Activities To Do Together
Finding joint activities together can also help with processing emotions. For example, you could:
Find a photo of your pet and decorate the frame.
Buy a plant in memory of your pet.
Draw pictures of your pet together.
Write your pet a letter - this is also a great way for your child to prepare to say goodbye and can stay with your pet after they have passed if it is an elective euthanasia.
Visit the pet’s favourite spot and talk about your favourite memories of them or a time they made you laugh.
Create a memory box.
My Pet Memory Book by S Wallace. Using the book will help the child as they grieve for their lost pet by helping them recall happy memories which they can record. The final section, Why My Pet Wouldn't Want Me To Be Sad will prompt the child to think about why they don't have to stay sad forever.
My Forever Friend (one version for cats and one for dogs) by Dr Mary Gardner & Coleen Ellis - is an activity book for children to complete if they wish.
For younger children struggling with the loss of a pet, sometimes getting a cuddle teddy can help. They could even attach your pet's collar, and when they feel sad they can cuddle their teddy and tell them all about their pet.
Lastly, comfort them. Whilst educational talks and activities can help process emotions, it’s also ok for them to feel sad and simply want a cuddle - especially if they are missing these moments from their beloved furry friend.
And Finally, Don’t Forget About You!
Don’t forget to grieve yourself, losing a family pet is an upsetting time for anyone. Letting your child/ren see that you too are upset and hurting will show them that expressing emotions in this situation is a safe and healthy thing to do.
Bereavement support is available for free 24/7 for both adults and children from the Bluecross, more details can be found here.
How We Can Support You?
We understand how heartbreaking it is to lose a pet.
At Roundwood Pet Hospice, we offer hospice care, in-home euthanasia, and memorial services.
Many families take great comfort from having a memento or keepsake to remind them of joyful times with their pet. At Roundwood Pet Hospice we offer four ways to memorialise your pet:
Individual pet cremation - ashes are returned for scattering, burial or to keep
Paw and nose prints - in both clay and ink
The memorial wall - you can write a story or share a memory with a photo on our website, Instagram and Facebook pages.
Nothing can prevent the pain that accompanies the loss of a pet. But a memorial can help you and your family to move beyond the sadness and recall the many happy days that made having your pet worthwhile in the first place.
To learn more about our services, ring us today on 0800 0495944, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helpful links for extra support:
Call 0800 0495944 to speak to one of our care advisers about your pet's needs.
We are all pet owners at Roundwood Pet Hospice, so we know how hard it is to manage with an old or infirm pet. When you talk with any of our team, we'll help you make the right decision together.
Our friendly team are ready to answer your queries from 9am - 12pm, 12:30pm - 5pm Monday - Friday.