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Help Kids Cope When They Lose a Pet

I'm a parent, and I've experienced the death of a pet. It's not easy to deal with, even as an adult. But my experience isn't the only one that can help you cope with the loss of a beloved animal companion—I'm also a psychologist who specialises in counselling children, teens and families dealing with grief. Here are some tips that might be helpful as you navigate this difficult time:

Tell them the truth. Don't try to spin it as something better.

  • Don't lie.

  • Don't make up stories.

  • Don't try to make it better than it is.

  • Don't try to make them feel better by saying "at least you still have me!" or "at least you'll get another one someday." These are not helpful statements, they're an attempt at distraction that will only leave your child feeling more confused and sad later on when they realize what you've done wasn't true in the first place.

  • Don't tell them that animals aren’t as important as people: children know this already! Instead, acknowledge their feelings and help them move through the process of accepting loss by giving them something else to focus on (a new pet; going out for ice cream). 

Don't minimise their feelings.

  • Don’t minimize their feelings.
  • Don’t tell them it's just a dog or cat, or that they will get over it.
  • Don't tell them they are being too sensitive and need to grow up.
  • Don’t tell them to get over it because they have other things to think about, such as school and friends (or anything else).

Acknowledge how they feel with empathy.

If your child is upset, don't ignore their feelings or tell them to get over it. Instead, be empathetic and supportive and use words like "I'm sorry," "I miss Fluffy too," or "I'm sad too."

When kids are hurting, they're often ashamed of their sadness. They might even try to hide it from you because they think being sad makes them look bad in front of other people. Be careful not to reinforce this belief by telling them that they shouldn't cry or be strong because it's not that bad—they probably already feel guilty enough as is!

Choose Pet Urns to remember your pet.