When a companion animal passes away, their loss is felt by the entire family. Children can have an especially difficult time understanding the death of a pet and working through the new emotions they experience. It can be challenging for parents to figure out how to console their children, especially while they are handling their own grief. The following information can be helpful for parents struggling to find a way to comfort their child, or themselves, during the bereavement process.
- Encourage your child to talk with you or a family friend or relative about their feelings, whether they be sadness, anger, guilt, or even relief that the pet’s pain is over. Some children are very open to sharing their emotions, but others may bottle up and need to be told it’s okay and normal to feel many different things at once.
- Children may find comfort in commemorating their pet by gathering photos and personal items (like dog tags) into a scrapbook. This is a great way to use art as a therapeutic tool and encourage shyer kids to express themselves.
- Celebrating the life of their pet by helping others can be a joy for children. Locate a shelter or rescue that would benefit from a donation of gently used cages, kennels, bowls, or toys. This is a really nice way to honor a pet and help homeless animals simultaneously.
- Spending time with other animals can be very therapeutic, whether it be a friend’s pet or another pet at home. This is also really important if you have another pet at home, as they may be grieving as well.
There are a number of really wonderful children’s books that address pet loss, and share the authors’ personal stories of coming to terms with the death of a pet. Reading one of these books to your child can present a great opportunity to open a conversation about difficult feelings.
The Forever Dog by Bill Cochran
Ocho Loved Flowers by Anne Fontaine
A Gift from Chloe* by Carol Sahagian Katinoglou
Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant
Goodbye Jake by Bam Schildkraut
Zoe’s Good-bye by Mary Schlangen
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
* When purchased at Hillside Acre Animal Cemetery, a portion of the proceeds from A Gift from Chloe sales will be kindly donated to the MSPCA at Nevins Farm by the author.
For more information on pet loss services offered at the MSPCA, including grief counseling services, please call (978) 685-0632 or visit Hillside Acre Animal Cemetery online by clicking here.
Support and Counseling
Pet Loss Counseling
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement