When Children Grieve
Everyone grieves differently, some openly, some privately. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is individual, as is each loss.
Children grieve in different ways, depending on their age. They may not have an understanding of what loss or death is, they may think that little "Jake" is only gone temporarily and will return when they get home from school.
So How can you prepare and tell your child about the death of your family pet?
* Stick to the facts - be honest and let them know if it was an accident or illness. Avoid telling the child that the "dog ran away" or "went to the farm". Instead, try and explain, "The Vet did everything they could". As hard as it is for you, explain that when our bodies get sick, and old, they stop working. Be true with your feelings "We are very sad that we wont see Jake anymore".
* Avoid 'Euphamisms' - like "put to sleep" or "went away". This can lead to anxiety and may cause confusion and scare young children. They may become afraid of going to sleep, or for you to go to sleep, just in case you don't wake up again.
* Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Offer lots of cuddles and support (which may also help you with your grief). Some children find it helpful to draw fun memories of their pet.
* Saying Goodbye - let them be a part of the process... but only if they Choose to be. Never force them to be in the room while the euthanasia is being performed.
Children are sponges and will behave how they see adults behave. It is perfectly fine to be sad, upset and cry in front of them. You do not need to apologise.
* Don't "Replace" your pet - give your household time to grieve the loss of your pet before bringing a new one into your lives. And when the time is right for you and your family, let your child know it is OK to feel sad about the lost pet, but excited about the new arrival.
Helpful books for Children:
Jasper's Day - Marjorie Blain Parker
Saying Goodbye to Lulu - Corrine Demas
What to expect . com kids and pets
Grief Recovery Method