It’s hard to overstate the bond we feel with our pets, which is why with the death of a pet that terms like “best friend” and “like a member of the family” don’t seem like enough.
For children, this bond can be especially strong, which is why the death of a pet can be especially hard for the younger members of your family.
It’s something we see all too often at our pet cremation service, which is why we’ve created this guide for talking to children about the death of a pet.
You can’t protect your kids from the loss of a pet, but you can make it easier for them to deal with this difficult experience and in doing so, help them learn how to cope with other hardships in the future.
Breaking the News
This first part might be the hardest. Try to have this conversation in a place where your kids feel safe and won’t become distracted.
If your pet has died suddenly, explain what has happened calmly. Keep this brief, allowing their questions to determine how much information you give.
If you have a pet who is old or sick, you may want to have this talk before the pet dies. Talk about euthanizing the pet in a way that makes it clear that your vet has done all they can and that this is the kindest, least painful course of action.
Depending on your child’s age and maturity level, it’s all right to use terms like “dying” or “death” or to explain the process.
Some children might be old enough and emotionally mature enough to be there with their pet at the end.
Just be careful about using terms like “he went to sleep” or “was put to sleep,” as younger children might develop frightening misconceptions about anesthesia or surgery.
Forget the “nice farm family”
Don’t try to hide a pet’s death from your children by telling them their dog or cat ran away or went to live in a much nicer place. It won’t make them any less sad and they’ll be angry with you if and when they learn the truth.
If your kids ask what happens to their pet after its death, tell them what you understand about death, using your religious/spiritual beliefs if relevant.
And remember that it’s ok to simply say “I don’t know,” as death is a mystery for everyone, not just kids.
Coping With the Loss
The death of a pet can trigger a mix of emotions. Sadness, of course, but also anger, loneliness and even guilt. (“I wish I’d spent more time with her!”)
Your job is to let your child know that all of the emotions are understandable and that you’ll be there when they want to talk. It’s OK to show them that you’re sad as well, which can teach them that it’s perfectly natural to cry or be upset when we lose a loved one.
Once they’ve had some time to process the news, you’ll want to find ways to help your kids move on, perhaps with a memorial service for the pet, creating a scrapbook, or simply some time where you can share your favorite memories.
Let your kids know that they’ll always have those happy memories of their pet, even as the pain over their loss fades.
Orange County, NY
One of the ways you can memorialize a beloved pet is through our pet cremation services. At Pet Crematorium and Memorial Service in Goshen, NY, we strive to provide the most dignified possible memorial for your pet through our pet cremation services.
We believe this is the most fitting option for pet owners, allowing them to avoid the issues that come with burial while still keeping your pet close in a memorial urn. For more information on the pet cremation process and our services, please call 914-490-1436 after business hours.