For a young child, one of the best friends they’ll have is often a pet. Pets bring joy and excitement to a child’s life and quickly become a member of the family. This makes it that much harder on them when a pet’s lifetime comes to a close. It’s never an easy conversation to have with your child, especially if it is their first experience with death, but there are some things you can do to soften the impact of the news. Keep reading to learn more and then visit our website to learn how Pet Memories can help support you during this difficult time.
If Possible, Prepare Them for the Pet’s Passing
In some cases, the pet’s death is unexpected and there’s no way to prepare for it, but in other cases, such as old age or sickness, it can be something that you know may happen soon. In these situations, it can help to begin to have conversations with your child about their pet’s health. This doesn’t have to be an intense conversation, either. It can be as gentle as telling them that their pet is very sick or getting older and having a hard time. However you approach it, it’s best to explain to them that it’s nothing that is the child’s fault (as this is a common feeling among children), but rather that it is an unfortunate part of life.
Choose Your Words Carefully
While it’s important to have the conversation, it’s just as important to think through how you will have the conversation. The child’s age, level of maturity, and past experiences with death (if any) will affect how you approach them. Use your best judgement on what words are appropriate to use when explaining the death of a pet. Experts recommend avoiding the use of phrases such as “went to sleep” or “went to a better place,” as this can make the child be afraid of sleeping themselves or feel they weren’t good enough for their pet and their pet didn’t want to stay with them. If you’re unsure of how much to tell your child, let their follow-up questions to the news be a guideline of how deep their understanding of the situation is and let that guide you.
When you do talk to your child about the death of their pet, the news will most likely cause a strong emotional reaction. For many parents, seeing their child grieve can be harder than actually telling them the news, and you should be prepared for that. Don’t feel like you need to be a strong parent in this moment; if you need to cry as well, that can actually be helpful for your child, as it shows them that it’s okay to be sad and can help them grieve as well.
Allow Them to Grieve
For many children, the death of a pet is their first experience with death and there’s no way of predicting how they will react. The most important thing you can do is to allow them to express their emotions and be there for them. Don’t try to minimize what they’re feeling in an attempt to help them grieve faster; there is no timeline for grief and you simply have to let it run its course. Let your child know that you’re always available to talk with them about it and be patient with them, as their emotional state can be fragile and volatile during this time.
Memorializing Your Pet
Once your child has had some time to process everything, it can be helpful to do something to memorialize their pet’s life. Ask your child what their favorite memories of their pet were and make it into a project, whether it be a scrapbook, a poster, or something similar. This can then become something that they can revisit when they’re missing their pet and remind them of the positive emotions they’ve associated with their pet. Holding a family funeral or memorial service can help to bring closure as well.
We Can Help
At Pet Memories, we understand that the time following the loss of a pet can be extremely difficult. If you have any questions about cremation or how to best memorialize your pet, give us a call today at 405-840-0800. We’re happy to answer all of your questions and discuss how we can take care of all the arrangements for you, allowing you to focus on your family and the memory of your beloved pet.