The Family Pet Just Died – Now What? Tips For Helping Your Child Cope

Posted on: 6 July 2015

Whether sudden or expected, losing a beloved family pet can be particularly traumatic for the entire family, especially a child. If you need help with explaining to your child what happened, you can call your veterinarian for assistance. However, this article will help guide you in the right direction of supporting your child, helping your child cope with the loss and things you can do to commemorate your pet.

Processing the Information

For a child, losing a pet brings on a feeling that they haven't ever experienced before (unless they've lost a family member previously). Therefore, you will need to help them move forward. While it is important that you take care of your child, it is just as important to let them work their way through their own feelings. Here are a few tips:

  • Be Honest About It – Offer your child a description that is age-appropriate of death and what happened. Don't sugarcoat things, even though you want to limit their sadness. It is important that they grieve.
  • Don't Hide Your Own Grief – As a family pet, the entire family was close to it and loved it. More than likely, you're pretty upset about the loss as well. Don't hide it. Let your child see it is okay to be sad, upset and to grieve. They may be trying to hold back their own feelings because they see you doing this, and this isn't healthy.
  • Reassure Your Child – Many children tend to think that it is their fault that the pet died. Make sure that they know this isn't true. Explain to them the situation, even if it takes multiple conversations.
  • Be Patient – It takes time to cope with the loss of a family pet. Be patient with your child as they work through this difficult time and avoid rushing to replace the pet. Wait until everyone is ready.

Remembering Your Pet

One of the best ways for your child to cope with the loss of their beloved pet is to do something to remember them by. Here are a few ideas:

  • Hold a Funeral – Like with humans, a funeral or memorial is a way for your child to properly tell their pet goodbye. Consider having your child help you with making a slideshow of some of the family's favorite photos of and with the pet.
  • Share Stories – At the funeral or while sitting on the couch, share some of the best moments that you had with your pet. This is for the entire family to do. It is a good way to keep a close eye on your child to make sure they're handling things okay.
  • Frame a Photo – Your child likely has a favorite photograph of the pet. With your child, take this photograph and decorate it, then place it in a frame. It can hung anywhere your child likes, which means it will probably be in their room.

When your pet dies, you may want to speak to your veterinarian (like those at Lamb's Gap Animal Hospital). Although you can bury Fido in the backyard, many people like to have the pet cremated and kept in a pet urn on the mantle.