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We all face daily challenges in today's complicated and demanding world. ACA’s Counseling Corner Blog offers thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and strategies for helping you to live a happier and healthier life.

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Jul 02, 2018

Helping Children With The Death Of A Pet

A child's first experience with death is often the loss of a pet. This can be a traumatic experience, but it's also a time to learn to cope with the grief and pain that comes with losing someone who brought them love and happiness.

Some parents try to spare their child by not talking about the pet's death or by not honestly dealing with what has happened. Pretending that the animal ran away, or "went to sleep" can make a child feel even more confused, frightened and betrayed when the truth is finally learned. It's better to tell the truth and provide opportunities to grieve.

If the decision is euthanasia for the pet, explain the process and why it's necessary. Help them understand that the pet is suffering and that this is a way to stop the pain. Explain that the process is quick and painless, and being done for the right reasons.

And make sure your child understands that it's okay to feel sad, but that there's no reason to feel guilty, thinking it's their fault that the pet has to be put to sleep.

If the decision is for euthanasia, give your child the opportunity to spend some personal time with the pet and say goodbye in their own special way.

After a pet's death, children should be allowed to grieve. Let your children see that you, too, are sad over the pet's death. If  don't feel the sense of loss as strongly as your children, respect their grief and allow them to express their feelings openly. Don't make them feel guilty or ashamed about their sadness.

Grief doesn't have a time limit. For children, as for adults, it's a personal thing. However, some special activities can help soften the grieving process. Holding a funeral or a memorial service for the deceased pet can allow children to openly express feelings and help process the loss. You may also want to give the child a chance to create a memorial of the pet, such as a special photograph.

And don't rush out and get a "replacement" pet. Doing so doesn't allow a child to grieve the loss being felt, and can teach that even something like death can be overcome by buying a replacement.

Losing a beloved pet is always difficult. Allow and help your children to process that loss and learn to cope with this certainty of life.

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  1. 3 Anne 03 Jul
    A complex subject indeed. Grief presents itself quite differently with different individuals. Some people don't want to hear anything about the deceased. Others can get quite dramatic and expressive (and certain cultures dictate that it be so, or else you're deemed not to be grieved). etc. 
  2. 2 Addie 12 Jul
    I agree with you about not rushing to "replace" the pet. The pet that died cannot be replaced. As hard as it is for parents to bear witness to their child's pain, giving them permission to experience grief in their own way is the best approach. 
  3. 1 Gine Oquendo 12 Dec
    I agree also about not to rush for replacement, that is not solution, After the pet cremation in Hampton Roads of the first pet of eldest, we decided to take vacation and since he was still kid we went to a place that we know he will enjoy much and he can be happy even in short time because of the loss of his pet. We are thankful that he's helping his self too to move on and controlling his emotion and trying to be busy to other things. Please refer to this link: roads/


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