Wendy Andrew is the world renowned ‘pet loss lady’ and author of How to Recover From Pet Loss. Wendy also studied Pet Bereavement Counselling with The ISCP – The International School for Canine Psychology and Behaviour Ltd.
Over the years, we will form incredible bonds with our pets. Of course, they are not just “pets”; they are a beloved part of the family.
You and your family will likely experience and share many highs and lows with your furry friend throughout their lifetime. Our cherished pets can even help us improve our mental health and provide invaluable companionship. With this in mind, when our pet dies, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed with grief.
Of course, the pain of losing your pet is not just traumatic for adults. If you have children, they will likely feel similar emotions, including a sense of anxiety.
Grieving the Loss of a Pet & Supporting Children
Avoid using terms such as ‘put to sleep’ with young children. Using such phrases can cause a lot of anxiety around sleep. They may become afraid of going to sleep themselves or their parents/siblings going to sleep. The Rainbow Bridge poem may be a helpful alternative.
Be as age-appropriate and honest as possible without apportioning blame to the vet. Saying the pet was sick and the vet couldn’t make them better can inspire anger in the child towards veterinarians. Remember, anger is a very negative emotion that we want to avoid.
With children returning to school, it may be helpful to inform their teacher. Children do not have the same ability to self-regulate their emotions as adults, so often, their grief can come out in their behaviour. This gives the teacher the opportunity to support your child instead of giving them into trouble for ‘being naughty.
Lead by example, and don’t hide your tears from your child. Let them see that it’s acceptable to cry.
Encourage your child to talk or write about how they are feeling and know that support is available from professional pet bereavement counsellors.
Please encourage your child to talk or write about their feelings and know that support is available from professional pet bereavement counsellors.
My book ‘How To Recover From Pet Loss – Supporting You On Your Journey To Acceptance’ has a chapter dedicated to supporting children & suggestions on how to memorialise your beloved companion animal.