This past Saturday was a blue one for the Cates family and friends, for we lost our beloved Golden Retriever, Sammie. I have had her through exactly half of my lifetime, we have had her since I was twelve and, now, being the 24 year old “adult” that I am, I have my own mature ways of coping with my loss. Since I have only lost one other pet, which was in college, I never realized that I never had to grieve the loss of a pet as a young child. Though every family takes a different approach on explaining the situation, I want to share with you some ways in which you can simply comfort a child that has lost a pet.
At first, it might be a shock to a child, as it is to all of us, so try not to make assumptions as to what a child may or may not be feeling. Let them draw their own conclusions about what happened and try to avoid telling them how they should feel and in what ways they should react. It is important just to be there for them and share your own feeling as well.
I know parents that have found success in giving their children choices of how to memorialize a family pet because it helps them through the grief process. You can also offer them the choice to bury your pet with one of their favorite toys or bedding. Keeping things positive by sharing happy memories with your pet is a way you can get the family talking about their feelings together. This is also helpful for children to see that everyone feels loss in different ways. One way to memorialize a pet is to have your children make a memory book with photos, stickers, and items that remind them of their beloved pet.
Moving forward, your child might want a keepsake to remember your pet by, like a collar or a toy. This way, they will feel assured that they will always have something to remember them by. Maybe think about purchasing a children’s book that addresses the many feelings and concerns that children feel during the loss of a pet.
Though it is always tough to lose an animal, I am writing this in hopes that it will someday help a parent, who is already grieving themselves. Even as an adult, I know how tough it can be, so I couldn’t imagine having to watch my child feel the same way. In memory of Sammie and all the love she brought to my family, I hope this can be a resource to a parent or caregiver out there who is looking for some guidance.
Below are a few children’s books that may be helpful.
• I'll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm
• When a Pet Dies, by Fred Rogers
• The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst
Written by Jenna Cates