Losing a pet is never easy; they become a part of our family. This past weekend we had to say goodbye to our dog, Morgan and it was not easy to do. She was a wonderful dog and my two kids just adored her. My husband and I got Morgan 8 1/2 years ago, a year before we had our daughter. So my kids have spent their whole lives having Morgan as their dog.
I’ve had to say goodbye to pets before, but this was by far the hardest goodbye of them all. I think it was a combination of having Morgan for so long and the fact that she was my favorite out of all of my pets. But the thing that made this time even harder, was having to watch the kids say their goodbyes. My son is 3 and he didn’t fully understand what was happening, but my daughter, who is 7, did.
Watching them, especially my daughter, have to say goodbye one last time broke my heart. It’s been four days since we saw her last, and my daughter still has moments where she cries and has a hard time. We see Morgan’s toys or the spot that she would always sleep in and are reminded of her all over again. I told my daughter that we will never forgot Morgan, but that over time we won’t feel so sad anymore.
My explanations and lots of hugs seem to help her a bit, but it is still a hard thing for a child (or adult) to go through. There are a few things that I did to help the kids through the grieving process, and I think they were helpful to them. Nothing I could do would take away the sadness, but doing the following things made it a bit easier to cope with.
Talk about things beforehand (if possible):
I know that it is not always possible to prepare your child for the loss of a pet. Accidents happen and there’s no way of preparing for it. However, if your pet is sick and you know they are dying or will have to be put to sleep soon, you can talk about it with your child beforehand. This can be done openly and honestly, but yet in an age appropriate way. The way you explain things to your 4 year old will look very different than how you would talk to a 9 or 14 year old.
After talking with my kids, my daughter had some questions, and I tried my best to answer them in a way that would make sense to her. I truly feel that being honest about what would soon be happening to Morgan was the best route to take. I didn’t want to keep her impending death from them and then have them be in complete shock when she was gone. I thought they deserved to know what was going on, and have the chance to spend as much extra time with her as possible before we had to say goodbye.
Read books about losing a pet:
This is something we did a few days after saying goodbye to our dog, although you could also read books about losing a pet before the pet is gone, if you have the chance to do so. For some kids, this may not help at all. For other children it may cause more sadness as it gets them re-thinking about what happened (or will be happening) to their own pet. So this is an idea that you will have to decide for yourself what your child can handle, and when may be the best time to read with them.
Our library had a couple of good books about losing a pet; two were about losing a dog (which was relevant to us), and the other one was about a pet mouse.
- Sammy in the Sky – This was a touching book about a dog who was sick and eventually died, and how the family remembered him after he was gone. This one made me cry a little.
- Harry & Hopper – A story about a boy and his dog who died suddenly and how the boy was left to work through the grief of losing him, but was eventually okay.
- Goodbye Mousie – A book about a young boy who wakes up one morning to find his pet mouse dead. It goes through the emotions that the little boy has, and ends with him accepting the truth that his mouse is gone.
I know that there are many more great books out there about losing a special pet, but these were the ones we read. If there is another helpful book that you know of, I’d love to hear about it.
Make a memory book:
Something that seemed to work well for my kids after our dog was gone, was to put together a small, simple scrapbook type memory book to help us remember Morgan and all of the wonderful things about her. You can read all about our memory book in the post I did just for this, but basically we put together a book of photos, drawings, and memories so we can look at our book and always remember Morgan. My kids both worked hard on our book and my daughter has looked through it several times when she is feeling sad and missing Morgan.
I know that there is no tip or idea out there that will take away the sadness and emptiness of losing a beloved pet (who are more like a family member than a pet), but I hope that these suggestions help to ease the pain a little bit for your child. Is there anything else you have done with your child to help them cope with the loss of a pet?