The companionship and unconditional love that come along with pet ownership is a truly remarkable and rewarding thing. Pets add so very much to our lives. Still, dealing with the passing of those animal friends, especially when children are involved, can be one of the most heartbreaking experiences of anyone’s life.
A clinical psychologist often deals with many kinds of grief. However, discussing the pain associated with the loss of a pet can be more challenging because the loss isn’t taken as seriously as if it were a human being in our family or friendship circle. Whether it is a cat, dog, cat, turtle, hamster, or hermit crab—they all become members of the family in specific ways, especially to our children.
When pets leave us
When pets die, there is often sadness that is normal in situations involving grief. However, at times we must keep an eye out for signs that the grief is extreme and may lead to anxiety and depression issues in adults, adolescents, and children.
The pain and loss of a beloved animal friend are often felt differently across siblings, parents, and other members of the family, including other pets. We all respond to loss differently. But, the level of pain often involves factors such as age, the age of the pet, personality, and the specific circumstances surrounding the death. While experiencing loss is a tragic and inevitable part of pet ownership, there are healthy ways to manage the pain and come to terms with our grief.
What to tell the kids
With kids, honesty is typically the best policy. Our culture as a whole is quite uncomfortable with death. However, the loss of a pet makes an excellent time to teach children about death and dying and the circle of life. It is an important concept to get across to youngsters.
Let children know it is okay to be themselves. If they cry or need to cry, let them know it’s fine to show those emotions amongst family. They need to realize it’s okay to cry, be sad, and feel the hurt. It is also important to acknowledge the grief. Additionally, provide for some time to cry and be sad, while also allowing for time to talk about the pet. The “stiff-upper-lip” approach that many families use comes from not being comfortable about death. However, talking openly about our pets and fond memories of them can help with the healing process.
Speaking with family members who have also lost pets can assist with the healing process, as well. Listening to peers and loved ones share their experiences helps us understand that we are not alone in our grief.
Do something special to your family and your pet
Keepsakes are also an excellent way to honor our animal friends and work through our grief. Perhaps a small charm necklace with a pet’s name and a paw print. Children can take a pet toy or object as a keepsake. Creating a ritual or some sort of tribute can also help with healing. Kids and family members can put together a scrapbook, craft a fitting eulogy or ceremony for the pet, write a poem or story, or design a rock garden or special place in the yard where the pet is laid to rest.
If you or your child has anxiety or a depressed mood after the loss of a pet, you can seek professional help from a therapist, like a therapist in Palatine, IL from Lotus Wellness Center. Reach out to schedule a session today.