The loss of a dog can truly upset the whole family, especially your little ones who have formed a special bond with the pet as they likely grew up together. Whether it is a result of an illness, an accident, relocation, or medical concerns, the loss of a dog can trigger troubling thoughts. Helping your children go through this loss can help them navigate emotions such as sadness and fear and encourage their inquisitive nature. It will also help them accept comfort from you, other members of your family, and from friends.
Here are some tips on how to help your child say goodbye to their childhood dog in a loving and compassionate way.
Tips for Comforting Your Kids During the Loss of a Dog
For most children, dogs are more than just animals. For them, dogs are their best friend, members of the family, and a source of comfort and companionship. Unfortunately, the good things that come with owning a pet also come with the heartbreak of loss, and it can be very hard for children to comprehend.
Your support is instrumental in helping your children cope with the loss of a dog. This grieving process is important as it helps kids learn how to deal with other types of losses throughout life. Here some tips to help you through the process:
Share the News in a Sensible Manner
When breaking the news to your child, make sure you use language that will align with your kid’s age and maturity level. They will probably ask questions, so prepare yourself to be patient and understanding when trying to explain this sensitive subject. If your dog is sick and has little to no fighting chance while at the vet, you can say something like:
“The doctor has done everything to save our pet. Our pet needs to rest now, so the doctor will have to give a shot that stops the heart from beating.”
You can also explain it in a way that euthanasia is the “kindest” way to take your dog’s pain away and that they will pass peacefully without feeling hurt and scared. Be careful about using medical terms that will lead to a negative association, as your child might conjure up scary ideas about going to the doctor.
Encourage Saying Goodbye in a Physical Manner
If there is still time for a visit before your pet passes away, allow your kids to have that chance. Most kids will want to say goodbye before the loss happens, and some might be emotionally mature enough to be next to their pet during the process.
Be Completely Honest
If the loss of a dog is related to an accident, you can apply the same principle but in a truthful manner. Avoid telling lies such as “the dog went on a vacation” or saying that the pet ran away. Calmly explain what happened. Be brief and composed, and let your child ask questions. Let the questions guide you on how much information you are willing to provide or share about the loss of your pet.
Be Emotionally Present for Your Kids
Just like any human dealing with death, children feel a variety of emotions other than sadness, especially when it comes to the loss of a pet. Expect that they might experience anger and frustration if the dog was euthanized or guilty on times when they were mean to their pets or when they didn’t care for them as much.
As a parent, you need to help kids understand that these are normal emotions that happen after losing a loved one, and to them, after the loss of a dog. Explain that it is okay not to want to talk about these emotions and that you are always there when they are ready.
Don’t Hide Your Own Feelings
Even if you need to be the pillar of strength in this situation, don’t feel compelled to hide your own sadness after losing a dog. Openly showing how you feel and talking about it sets an example for your children. You show them that it is okay to feel this sadness, especially after losing a loved one. It is comforting for them to feel that they are not alone and that they can cry with you if they need to. You can share your own stories about the pets you had – and lost – as a child and your own experiences of how you coped with it.
Honour the Life of Your Pet
After the initial shock of the news has faded, you can now work on helping your child heal and ultimately move on from the loss of your pet. It might help to set up a ceremony or other special ways to remember them. You can organize a small gathering for friends and family to bury your pet or just to share special memories with each other. You can encourage your child to share stories of your pet’s funny moments or make a scrapbook with all of your photos in it.
Talk openly to your children about the fact that while the loss of a dog is a sad situation, the happy memories with the pet will always be with you. When the time is right, you can consider adopting a new pet, not as a replacement, but as a new way to welcome this love and relationship that once was lost.
Going Through the Loss of A Dog?
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