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Some parents feel that they should protect their children from the grief of the loss of a pet by either not talking about the pet's death or by not being honest about what happened. Pretending that the pet ran away or "went to sleep" can have a negative impact on your child. Your child may end up being more confused or scared. Your child may feel betrayed when he finally learns the truth. It's best to be honest about the pet's death with your child and help your child cope with the loss of a pet in a healthy way.
Tips for Parents:
1. Reassure your child that it's okay to be sad. Validate your child's feelings, even if you don't understand them yourself. Don't make your child feel ashamed for grieving the loss of his pet.
2. If you have your pet euthanized, it's okay to involve your child in the dying process. Explain to your child why the choice is necessary. Allow your child some special time with the family pet and let your child say goodbye to the pet. Swiftly "taking care of business" usually will result in your child becoming angry with you or feeling unnecessarily guilty about euthanizing the pet.
3. It's okay to do some sort of memorial service for your pet. Funerals and other types of memorials are a part of our culture. Having a memorial service for your pet, if your child wants one, is a good way to teach your child about the healing nature of memorial services.
4. Don't rush to buy a replacement pet. You don't want to unknowingly give your child the feeling that all living things are easily replaceable. Give it time. When your child has grieved the loss and is ready for a new pet, certainly get one--but don't rush into it in hopes of alleviating your child's grief.
If you let your child naturally grieve the loss of his pet, you will do a world of good in teaching your child how to manage grief in a healthy manner--something that will stick with your child for the future losses he may face.
Grieving doesn't always end with the funeral: subscribe to our free daily grief support email program, designed to help you a little bit every day, by filling out the form below.