February 13, 2017

Helping Your Child Cope with Losing a Pet

For many children and teens, the loss of a beloved pet is their first experience with grief. This can be a difficult time for all involved.  Here are some tips for helping children cope.

  • Allow your child to grieve his or her loss.
  • Understand that the magnitude of the loss may be different for your child than it is for you. Many children have grown up with their pet, so the loss may be felt deeply.
  • Allow your child to experience all of the emotions and reactions that accompany the grief process. Give them permission to have strong feelings and to take time off from commitments and activities if necessary.
  • Children in the same family may express their grief in very different ways. Allow children to grieve in whatever way is best for them.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
—Winnie the Pooh

  • Just as an important person cannot be replaced, neither can a pet.
  • Don’t push your child into getting a new pet in an attempt to divert his or her grief. Let your child decide when the time is right for a new friend.
  • Help your child remember their pet by establishing a memorial. Place a special marker at the site where the pet is buried or plant a special flower or shrub to mark the site. Having a memorial service or funeral may also help your child say goodbye.
  • Collect photos of your pet and create a photo book together.
  • For many young children, losing a pet is their first experience with death. Use this opportunity to speak with your child about death and dying. Being open with your child about death now will help prepare him or her for losses in the future.

Kids Path is a program of Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro that supports seriously ill and grieving children. Click here to learn more.