Tuesday, January 31, 2012
What Advice Do You Have When Caring for a Child After the Death of a Family Pet?
By H.J. Fracaro
For many children their first experience with death is the loss of a pet. Although it is devastating for children of all ages, it does allow them to understand the process of death and grieving. They observe the deceased will not be coming back and find a way to cope.
If a pet has to be put down, it is best to allow the child to say goodbye first. Give them truthful, uncomplicated answers about the process and help them remember the positive impact the pet made on their lives. It the pet is buried, plant a tree, flowers, or a marker in the yard in tribute. If cremated place the urn on a bookshelf or mantle with a photograph or collar but make sure not to turn it into a shrine to the lost pet. It is important they feel the loss and move forward instead of replacing the pet with the shrine. This is also why you should not replace the pet immediately.
There are many helpful books for children addressing pet death. Some of the most popular are: Newberry winner Cynthia Rylant’s Cat Heaven and Dog HeavenI'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm, and The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst. Compassion, the passage of time, and books like these can help heal a child’s broken heart.