HELPING YOUR CHILD COPE WITH PET LOSS
The relationship between humans and animals is special. Here in the United States, pets are viewed not just as an animal but as a member of the family. For some, their pet is more like a ‘child.’ Our pets derive their food, shelter, affection, and entertainment directly from us just like children. Pets have become as much a member of a family unit as human beings.
We, in turn, get much reward from having pets. Unconditional love being one. Pets are sources for companionship and reduce loneliness. Research has proven that pets help relieve stress and lower blood pressure. The same with Anxiety and even can help with developing allergies.
The loss of a pet can be devastating. So much so that many pet owners find the grief associated with the loss of a pet just as or even more challenging than the loss of human loved ones. And for children? The death of a pet is often a child’s first experience with death and the grief surrounding it. Every child is different and pending on age and maturity will affect how your child handles the news.
Our Personal Loss
If you follow me on Instagram, you know Koby was a stray we took in around October. The weather was starting to get cold and we didn’t want to leave him to the elements. He had come to know and trust us so we gave it a shot. He adapted to life indoors perfectly. Koby could be a little skittish occasionally but loved to cuddle and be loved.
We were nervous about how Koby and my parents two cats would get along. Especially when no one was home. Instead of fighting the three of them were usually found cat napping together. And the biggest surprise and joy was seeing him take to Lil Man and Lil Man liked being around him!
Then the unexpected happened. Koby had a heart attack. There was nothing anyone could do and we all took it hard.
Koby passed early one morning before the kids were up. JR didn’t seem to notice or understand but DIVA is a mini-me and very emotional.
Our first step was breaking the news. My husband calmly explained that Koby was dead. We let DIVA ask questions and let those questions guide us in how much information we would provide. We also told her it was okay if she didn’t want to talk about it but that we would be there when she was ready.
Don’t feel compelled to hide your own sadness about losing a pet. Showing how you feel and talking about it openly sets an example for kids. You show that it’s OK to feel sad when you lose a loved one, to talk about your feelings, and to cry when you feel sad. And it’s comforting to kids to know that they’re not alone in feeling sad. Share stories about the pets you had — and lost — when you were young and how difficult it was to say goodbye.
It can help kids to find special ways to remember a pet. You might have a ceremony to bury your pet or just share memories of fun times you had together. Offer thoughts on what the pet meant to each family member. Share stories about your pet. You could do a project, too, like making a scrapbook and/or an ornament.
Another great way to remember and honor that a beloved pet would be to have a special plaque made in honor of the pet. This is especially sweet for children to have because they will cherish it for the rest of their lives. Based out of East Point, Georgia, East Point Foundry makes customized plaques for all of your needs.
Since 1948, East Point Foundry has handcrafted cast iron bronze and aluminum plaques for both governments and the private sector. As one of the few remaining foundries in Amerca, East Point Foundry is unique with working directly with their customers and cutting the middleman. From start to finish, all work is 100% in house. Since everything is made in-house and is all custom made according to your direction, you are able to customize items such as the texture, border, size, and the art + layout. Every customer’s wants, needs, and exact specifications are met.
“Since 1948, our Bronze Plaques have stood the test of time, honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service. Whether a fallen hero, a cause, special person or government achievement, East Point Foundry stands ready to create a timeless masterpiece. We create an elegant permanent architectural tribute, donor recognition, or facility identification in all sizes and designs. Each hand cast plaque is a distinctive celebration of the person or place. For those that have existing plaques that are aged and worn, we will refurbish your plaques to look new.”
In order to remember and honor your beloved pet, consider a beautiful custom made plaque from East Point Foundry to hang on your wall or place on a desk, to always remember your pet for years to come.
Books can be a great resource for helping children work through their emotions. Barnes & Noble put together a great list of age-appropriate books to help do just that.
- The Goodbye Book, by Todd Parr*
This colorful and simple story is told through the point of view of a fish that has lost his companion. While the story does not reference the death of the companion, it does drive home the point that it is not always easy to say goodbye. Parr helps address the feelings and emotions around death and loss and portrays several stages of grief in easy and simple to understand terms for little ones. (Ages 3-6)
- I’ll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm*
Elfie the dachshund has grown up with her family, and her special young master, since she was a rambunctious little puppy, and is now in her quieter, golden years. One night, she passes away in her sleep and the family is full of grief. After burying their beloved pet, the young boy is not ready for a new dog. But when the time comes, he knows he will tell that new pet, “I’ll always love you.” This is a great book for families that have lost an older dog. (Ages 3-7)
- The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst and Erik Blegvad*
Finally, from the awesome author of the Alexander books, a story about a boy coping with the death of the family cat. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney handles this sad situation with honesty and sensitivity. (Ages 6-9)
*You can find these titles on My Amazon Affiliate Page.
As the saying goes, ‘time heals all wounds.’ Just as it takes time for us adults to feel a new normal our children may need more time and assistance from us.
Have you had to help your child with the loss of a pet? What has worked for your family?