If you are reading this, it is because you might be in the same place I am at right now. A few days ago our sweet boy (dog) Niko passed away at home during the early morning hours. Several weeks before that day we knew it was coming. He was older, showing signs of illness, and just not like himself. Even though we knew it was coming, nothing could prepare us for his death and certainly nothing could prepare us for the heartache our 5 year-old-son would experience. So today I want to share with you What to Say to Kids When They Lose a Pet in case you ever have to endure what we have this last week.
What to Say to Kids When They Lose a Pet
I am firm believer that many of us shelter our kids too much from death. Death is scary and sad but it is also inevitable. Everyone dies some way, some how, and at some point. I truly think that sheltering our kids from those facts is what makes the entire process of grieving harder. If they don’t know something is going to happen (or even can happen), how can they prepare (the best they can) for when that time comes?
So what do I think needs to be said to kids when they lose a pet?
It’s simple…THE TRUTH.
Tell your kids what is going to happen to their beloved pet. Tell them why this is happening and talk them through the process (assuming they are old enough to understand). Tell them it’s okay to be sad, to cry, and to miss their buddy each and every day. They deserve to know what is happening with their pal, don’t you agree?
Kids are smarter than we like to think. They grasp far more of the world than even we do sometimes. Instead of filtering the negative, we need to show them it and help them prepare so they can get through it. In life there is good and there is bad. Death just happens to be part of the bad.
The best example I can use is with my oldest son Kayzen. 2 years ago our other dog Milo passed away from old age. At the time our oldest son Kayzen was 3. All he knew was that Milo was “gone” even after all the discussions. He used to tell us he saw him in the clouds. He also used to tell us that when it rained Milo was sad because he wasn’t with us anymore. Now, we are not religious and do not push religion on our kids so that is just something he put together in his own head. He talked that way for months and still does to this day. I think it was his way of coping with the loss and in a sense, his way of grieving.
I don’t believe he would have grieved the same if it weren’t for us talking with him. Telling him what happened and why. Sharing our love for our pet and telling Kayzen is was okay to be sad and to miss him. Even with him only taking away that our dog was “gone” it was enough. Enough to get him through the pain. Had we lied, I think it would have only made that situation and this one much harder. Kayzen now truly understands the idea of death because we’ve told him. Him knowing does change what happened but it changes the way he handles the situation.
If telling the truth is too soon, you can do these 4 things:
- Make a collage of images of your pet. It will keep your child’s mind busy and maybe help them open up for discussing their feelings.
- Talk about the possibility of getting a new pet in the future. Not as a replacement but as another family and friend to welcome into the home.
- Realize your child is grieving and will handle things differently. Just offer you love and support and let them know you are ready to listen when they want to talk.
- Take time to grieve for yourself. As parents we try hard to be brave but we also have to take time for ourselves. Pets truly take a piece of each of our hearts and we have to let our children see we are sad of their passing too. Our children are not alone.
We all cope with loss differently but in the end the loss is the same. We all experience the heartache, the loneliness, and the sorrow. We miss the good times and cherish the memories we’ve had. After all, pets are family and should be remembered as such. So talk with your kids and tell them what is happening. It will prepare them for life and death and give them a reason behind the sadness they feel.