Losing a pet is obviously so difficult on everyone, but it is especially difficult when you need to explain to your children that their pet isn’t coming home. Sometimes talking to children about death and grief can seem taboo to most people, but we think it’s so important for all your family members of all ages to fully understand what is happening. A child’s grief should be counted as equally as important as an adults, sometimes more. Your child may have grown up with their pet and don't know a life without them.
Tell The Truth
It is important to let children know that their pet has died and will not be coming back, as harsh as that sounds. You do not want to make up a story where the child may think the pet can come home. Keep your language age appropriate and a tone where they will understand that you are being serious. Children can be very perceptive and pick up on any lies, they also will quick-fire you some curious questions that you may not be prepared for. You may want to tell your child that their pet has “gone to heaven”, which is completely fine, but you still need to make sure that this means that their pet isn’t coming home.
Stay Away From Euphemisms
Try not to say their pet has “gone to sleep” or “gone to a farm”, it may sound like a lovely way to describe the passing of your pet, but we advise against it for children. You don’t want to confuse them, children can sometimes overthink something and if you tell them their pet has gone to sleep and won’t wake up, they may start to think they won’t wake up either next time they go to sleep themselves.
Keep Language Appropriate
You know your child better than anyone else, so you know exactly how to speak to them in a way they will understand. Use this to gently break the news to them about their pet. Just try to stay away from big words like “euthanised” that may be hard for them to understand.
Try to Choose a Neutral Date
Choosing when to say goodbye to your pet is never an easy decision. In some cases, such as an accident, you may not be given the chance to say goodbye. If you are aware that the time is coming soon where your pet will be put to sleep, then try to arrange their final journey on a date that isn’t already important to your family. Try to avoid days around Christmas, birthdays etc. As this day will be important to you and your family and will stick with your child.
Respect Your Child’s Feelings
Children may feel loss just as much as adults will and will want to display their grief. They may react with outlandish behaviour or be the complete opposite and shut down. If this is the first experience of grief and loss your child has experienced, it’s important to tread lightly and respect their feelings. You should allow your child to express their feelings which will help them come to terms with the loss. Children can accept loss very quickly, and it may come as a surprise at how quickly your child accepts it and moves on.
Each child is different and will respond differently to grief, it is just important to check up on them if they seem to have shut down their feelings.