The passing of our family pet is probably the most confusing condition for our children. They may never have experienced death before and they look to the adults for guidance, explanation and love. This is the most vulnerable situation that may have occurred for them and they have difficulty processing the emotions that we are also going through.
The method of addressing pet loss is different for every child, and how they handle the situation is based on both age and maturity. As adults, it is up to us to monitor, help, hug and offer assistance so that they can accept the loss and grieve in their own way. This can be difficult as we are also experiencing our own grief, but there are some things that you can do to help them while sharing your own emotional loss.
Special Books for Children and Pet Loss: There are a number of books designed to address the incredibly sensitive time of pet loss for children. Here are a few that have been recommended:
Paw Prints in the Stars: A Farewell and Journal for a Beloved Pet, by Warren Hanson
I’ll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm
The Goodbye Book, by Todd Parr
Cat Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant
Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Rylant
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst and Erik Blegvad
The Rainbow Bridge…A Dog’s Story, by Judith Kristen
Creating a Tribute Together: An important part of helping the grief process for children is ensuring that they feel as though they are part of the decisions to honor your pet. This can also assist in giving them a feeling of empowerment during a time when they often feel lost and alone. There are a number of ways that you can create a tribute together, as a family, and you should take the time to get their opinion, give them options and let them be part of the selection process.
Creating customized jewelry: Whether with a saying, quote or a picture can be incredibly powerful.
Personal Memorials: Plaques or paintings let your children remember their beloved pet in a way that transcends time.
Online Resources: Depending upon the age of the child, they may need a resource that can be read to them or if they are older, may want to join a chat room or focus on a website themselves. Today’s internet brings a wealth of help for kids that are simply trying to process how they feel.
The Argus Institute, at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University. This group specializes in an approach of compassion and has reading links that help both children and adults.
RainbowBridge.com Grief Support Center: Many resources that help children to cope with the pain and sorrow of the loss of their pet.
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement: This nonprofit organization is staffed by knowledgable and concerned volunteers that approach the topic of pet loss with an understanding that is designed to help. The site includes an additional list of pet loss resources.
The Companion Animal Association of Arizona: This group is supported by those volunteers that have gone through the suffering and pain of pet loss. They are a pet grief support service that knows what you are feeling and will help you through each step of your pain.
Grief Healing: A website that is hosted by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC (Distance Credentialed Counselor). It brings an incredible array of healing articles, a discussion group, a blog, healing courses and support for children.