Telling your child that a pet has died is something parents dread. How to proceed? How can you help your child deal with grief and bereavement? Our answers.
Charlie the rabbit, Abricot the hamster, Sapphire the cat or Ulysse the dog just died. This is a complicated event for children regardless of the pet. Losing a friend, a confidant, is a wild news that parents have to announce.
The disappearance of a pet is a special moment for a child, as it is often the first time that they experience the death of a loved one. He had trouble conceptualizing it. How to find soothing words without denying the reality of this death?
How to announce and explain the death of a pet to a child?
Tell the truth in simple words
It is important to tell your child the truth in simple terms without going into sordid details. Use specific words that will answer their questions. Tell him that his pet is dead, that he will never see him again, that he will not be able to play with him, that he will not be able to hold him, that he will not be able to talk to him.
Above all, do not lie to him or deny the truth of the disappearance, because your child will quickly discover that his animal is missing. He may resent you later.
Child and adolescent psychologist Caroline Goldman recommends breaking the news of a loved one’s departure with a sweet smile that will have a calming effect on the child, on the Bring the Worst to Kids podcast. “If mom and dad are smiling, it’s because nothing serious is happening.“.
Depending on the circumstances of the death, what to tell the child:
- In case of natural death:
Explain to your child that his pet is dying, getting old, and having a heart attack. You can tell him that the cycle of life and death is a natural process. You can also note that pets live shorter than humans. Make sure they are having a good time together and that their friend is living a good life.
- In case of illness:
Tell your child that his dog or cat is sick and no longer in pain, that this is a relief, a relief.
- During the accident:
The child will want to learn about the circumstances of death and explain its context. If he wants to know, tell him where the body of his faithful companion was found and the person who found it.
- In case of euthanasia:
It is necessary to explain to him that the purpose of this intervention is to save the sick animal from its suffering. Calm him down by explaining that the fluid the vet injected him with will stop his dear friend’s heart beating but he won’t feel anything. Depending on the age of the child and if he/she requests it, he/she may be present during the euthanasia.
Choose the right time
Give your child the news in a timely manner, calm down when available, and be ready to pay attention. Do not interfere with his play.
Phrases that should not be used
Some words or phrases should be prohibited when announcing the news to your child:
- fell asleep / sleeps
- he left
The child may assume that his confidant will wake up or wait for him to return. He himself may be afraid to sleep for fear of dying.
Certain expressions can lead the animal to believe that he is leaving because he has been treated badly or because he has made a mistake. Then your child will feel guilty.
How can you help your child deal with grief and bereavement?
Encourage your child to express his feelings
The disappearance of a pet is a very painful moment for a child. It is important that he can express his sadness and feelings. It can be filled with sadness, anger, guilt, and feelings of abandonment. Don’t minimize her grief, take the loss of her goldfish seriously.
The death of his partner may prompt questions about death or other topics, take time to answer them. This will also be an opportunity to calm him down by explaining that he is not responsible for her death.
Plan a ceremony
Offer a farewell party to help your child grieve. You can bury a friend’s thing in the garden, he will have a place to collect himself when he wants.
You can also ask your child to write a farewell letter or draw a picture of a dead animal. You can also frame a photo of a dog or a cat, for example, which you will install in your room. When he needs (if he needs) he can gather himself in front of him.
This farewell moment will also be an opportunity to talk about, reminisce, honor and connect with your beloved pet.
Before adopting another animal, respect a grieving period
This time of mourning will also be the time when the child learns that his pet is a unique being, irreplaceable and irreplaceable. He will learn that no other animal will replace his lost confidant. So be careful not to adopt another puppy or kitten or new turtle too soon and forget about your loyal companion. It takes 2-3 months for him to mourn.
It goes without saying that the time it takes to experience this grief is unique to each child. Some will take longer than others. Talk to him. But if your offspring doesn’t want to adopt a new animal, respect their choice.