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5 tips on helping kids cope with a pet loss
Having to cope with a loss of a pet with your children can be very hard. A few days ago, we lost our family dog Tiger. Tiger was my dad’s dog, and my dad passed away four years ago, so Tiger was extra special to us. It has been 12 years since we got Tiger but I can still remember the first day my Dad brought him home. Tiger was an extremely hyper puppy he was full of joy and so loving. My mom was upset that my dad had a brought home a puppy because he didn’t even consult her about it. Here we are 12 years later and my mom and Tiger were inseparable. Losing Tiger was particularly hard for all of us because we felt like he was our last connection to my dad. When he passed away it almost seemed like Tiger knew he had to step up and be there for my Mom.
For those of us that have pets it is easy to understand how the bond between a pet and his owner becomes unbreakable. They really do become part of the family. They are part of your day-to-day life and when they no longer around you really do grieve their death as if they were human. Death in general is a very confusing and difficult topic for children and sometimes as parents we have a hard time explaining and helping them understand. Below are some tips that can help you assist with an already tough and emotional situation.
- Don’t hide your own emotions. As adults, we often feel the burden of being strong in extremely emotional situations. When if comes to grief, hiding your feelings and emotions is on of the worse things you can do. Not only it is unhealthy for you to bottle up your emotions, but you are also sending the wrong message to your children. If they see you are trying to keep it all in, they may feel like they have to do the same. And what I mean by this is, it is ok to cry in front of them, let them know you are sad. If you don’t show this then they may not express their emotions. With our recent loss of Tiger, my oldest daughter had a hard time. She was sad but tried to keep it in because she didn’t want to make us or my Mom feel worse. Make sure you reassure your children that it is ok to be sad and it is ok to show it.
- Educate your children. Death is not an easy subject to deal with for anyone but it is something we all experience in life so it’s better to address it with your children. We have 2 family dogs of our own who are also getting older and that worried my kids because they began thinking about losing them too. Let them know that it will happen one day but to instead focus on enjoying the time they do have with them.
- Don’t shield your child. Talking about death is healthy. Like I said before, it is part of life and something everyone experiences at one point or another. They may not understand it but talking about it makes them aware. Giving them false hope about a human or a pet living forever only makes things harder down the road. My children experienced death for the first time when we lost my dad. My son was pretty young at the time so it was harder for him to understand but for my oldest daughter, I think having her involved and letting her see us grieve, helped her to better understand what was going on as well as cope with the loss. Honesty and openness are always the best policy.
- Have them make a memorial. There are many options for this. A few options would be to frame a favorite picture, create a plate with a plastered paw print (some vet offices will do this for you), or save their license tags and create a shadow box. Depending on the age of your child, you can also get them a journal and have them write down some of their favorite memories with their pet.
- Hold off on getting a new pet. It may seem like a good idea at the time because you might feel it can fill the void you are feeling from your loss, but the best thing you can do is wait. Replacing your pet will not make you feel better about the loss, and will give your kids the wrong idea. Take the time to grieve and if down the road you feel ready than go for it.
These are some things we are going through with my family and it is helping us overcome the loss of Tiger. Hope these tips will help you and your family as it has helped us!