Guiding Children Through the {Grief} of Losing a Pet

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The day I went to rescue a kitten, I had no idea that I would be coming home with two. I had been eyeing one in particular but when I got there, I knew I was leaving with both hands full. We would be growing our family by eight paws. My kids were thrilled, and they quickly became part of the family.

That’s the thing about our animals, they bring so much joy to our lives, and become such a big part of the family…

Then a few years down the road, that sweet kitten with so much personality that I couldn’t possibly go home without, began to act differently. He wasnt eating or drinking like he should be, so we went to the vet. Again, I didn’t anticipate the amount of time, money, and effort I would soon be putting into helping our cat get well. We found out our poor guy was diabetic and would need a completely different diet and a shot of insulin twice a day. That’s the thing about our animals, they bring so much joy to our lives, and become such a big part of the family, that we go to great lengths to make sure to take care of them the best we can. Soon it was our new normal, and our little guy was back to what would now be his new “normal”. We got two more wonderful years with our boy before it unfortunately was time to say goodbye. My son and daughter were devastated. All of us were, including our other cat. To help us all get through this a little easier, I approached it in a very sensitive and thoughtful way.

How to Guide Your Child Through Losing a Pet

Talk About It

I decided to be honest with the kids, and let them know his little body was tired. Aside from the diabetes, his kidneys were failing. We were lucky to get the years we did with him. I spoke with both of them separately and let them process it how they needed to. They both handled it in their own way, but I made sure to let them both know, whether they need to cry, talk, or even be alone that it was okay. There is no timeline for our grief either, and that we will always be a little sad when we think about him but hopefully we will be a little happy too, thinking of good times.

Involve Your Village

I reached out to their teachers the next day to let them know, they may not be paying attention or participating like they normally would. We are so lucky to have such great support in the way of teachers and they also spoke with them about it and let me know they would keep a little closer eye on them. My best friend immediately came over with treats and a picture she somehow whipped up in no time that she printed and framed with a sweet poem that the kids have proudly displayed in their playroom.

Remember

I tried to not be overbearing but made sure I gave the kids the chance to talk, cry, and look at pictures of our boy. Whether you just talk about them, hold a ceremony, or go through pictures, it is so important for closure and allowing your little ones to process this as best as they can. Reminiscing over pictures and remembering fun times was extremely therapeutic for all of us. We remembered what a good life he had and how lucky that we were able to be a part of it.

Have you lost a family pet?  How did you help your child through the process?

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