Losing a loved one is a challenging experience for adults and often times can be very confusing for children because they are unsure of the various emotions they are experiencing. The loss of a pet may be your child's first experience with grief and is a great opportunity for parents to teach their child/children healthy ways to cope with grief.
A child may feel confused, sad, angry, or guilty and blame themselves for their pets death. A child may feel scared that other people or animals they love may leave them and may feel anxious or worried. Some parents feel they need to protect their child/children from experiencing their feelings. Parents may tell their child that the pet ran away or went to sleep to make their child feel better. Tell your child in an age appropriate manner of what happened to the family pet and help them learn to cope with their thoughts an feelings during this confusing time. It is better to be honest with children and allow them to experience grief in their own way with your guidance.
When it comes to the loss of a family pet, how do we help children cope with their thoughts and feelings?
- Parents need to express their own grief and loss of the pet. Don't hide your own thoughts and feelings towards the loss of your pet. Model your thoughts and feelings and the healthy ways you cope with grief.
- Let your child express their grief. Let your child feel their emotions and offer them support and guidance during the process. Don't tell them not to cry. It is okay if they feel the need to cry.
- Educate your child about grief and loss and reassure your child. Help your child understand that the death of their pet was not their fault. Reassure them that other people they love are not going to die and talk to them about their feelings and concerns.
- Allow your child/children to be a part of the memorial for the pet. This helps the child/children learn about closure and honoring the pet. This will help the child process their thoughts and feelings towards their loss.
- Have your child write a letter or draw a picture for their pet. This is a helpful way for your child to say their goodbyes and get their feelings out about their loss.
If you feel like your child/children is struggling with their thoughts and feelings in relation to a pet loss, contact a Licensed Counselor and discuss ways to help your child cope with their loss.
At Life Balance Counseling in Schaumburg we have a Certified Grief Counselor that can help. Feel free to contact us at 888.234.7628 for any help and guidance.