Almost every parent has been there. Your family pet died, and your preschooler wants the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Instead of saying that Bowser or Fluffy is sleeping, you have to come clean. It’s not easy to do, but there are some things you can do to lighten the news.”He died.”The “D” WordDeath is fairly taboo. However, you need to be honest. Instead of using euphemisms, take a deep breath and tell it like it is. Use the words “dead” and “death” instead of phrases such as “departed” or “resting.” The entire concept can be confusing to a young child. You don’t need to go into more details than you have to, but you can be frank about the fact that the furry family member is not coming back.
Be Ready to Start Healing as a FamilyInstead of pretending like the incident did not happen and sweeping it under the rug, take actions to remember how great your pet was. Tell funny stories, draw pictures, and hold a small pet memorial service in his memory. A few good activities to help young children understand and cope include:• Go to the local library. Get a few picture books about what happens when people or animals die. Explain what difficult vocabulary words like “grieve” mean, and help your child approach the difficult subject at an age-appropriate level.• Show your child he or she is not alone. Be candid about your feelings, and encourage your child to share his or her own. Were you shocked when you first heard the news? Were you scared? Were you sad? Were you unable to identify what you were feeling?• Do something nice for your late pet. Help your child draw pictures or write letters to your late pet. Your pet can see them from heaven and will be happy to know that you remember him or her. Make sure your child feels comfortable talking about what death is, but do not push too much.After the initial grieving stage is over, continue to keep going. You know your child best, and you should make the judgment call about what he or she can or cannot handle. At the end of the day, it is important to go back to work and school while still remembering your pet.
Create a Scrapbook of Good MemoriesCome up with funny stories as a family, and create a book of good memories. Add photographs, notes, an old collar, and anything else you can think of. Let your child look at the scrapbook and remember the good times you all had with your family pet. Your pet is not erased from your memory after he or she dies, but you don’t have the same relationship you used to.When It Is Time to Get a New PetBe prepared to get a new pet after you and your family are done grieving the loss of your old pet, which can take some time. Instead of trying to replace your pet, welcome a new and different pet into the family. Be ready to take more pictures and create more memories, even if they will be different.