Everyday, I work with people and pets dealing with death. From grief to relief to sadness and even to freedom, the death of a pet is certainly a complicated experience for adults. When you add children into the mix however, moving through the process can feel like wading through wet cement. Here, I offer a few guidelines for supporting your child through these difficult moments:
- Everyone handles death differently. Your daughter may want to spend time in her room with her beloved cat’s photos and favorite toy while your son may want to go out and play. Neither method of coping is wrong, just different. Honor these by not judging them.
- While it may seem like a good idea to offer to get another pet right away, this can actually mask emotions that need to be dealt with. Let your child take the lead on this. Until he says “ok, I would like to have another cat in our life” don’t offer. The healthiest way to move through this process is through release not replacement.
- Prepare your child for the animal’s passing if that is a possibility. Shielding him from such a natural fact of life will only make it more difficult later on, but allowing your child to say a goodbye can be a healing experience for you, your child and your pet.
- You cannot “fix” your child’s grief, but you can be there to support. Asking a nudging question here and there and having an ear ready at all times to listen in case he decides to talk about his feelings are the best methods for support.
Remember that you have your own grieving process to go through as well—so concentrating too much focus and energy on your child can mask your own feelings and emotions. The healthiest way for you to move through this is by giving to yourself, not giving to everyone else.
If the grief does become unmanageable or it doesn’t feel like there is any movement within yourself, grief counselors and animal communicators can be helpful. I have talked with many deceased pets and their humans to help give closure to a situation which then enabled the human (or family) to resume moving toward a place of peace and acceptance of their animal’s passing. To procure that type of help for yourself, please visit: daniellemackinnon.com/signup.html.