Three Impactful Ways to Help Children with Pet Loss

Loosing a pet is often a child’s first experience with death. This loss can be overwhelming and research shows that many adults still have vidid memories of the loss of their first pet. As a veterinarian I have worked with many families with children cope with the loss of a beloved pet. I created a list of the three most impactful ways to help a child grieve this loss. 

1) Reading Books on Pet Loss

Reading age appropriate children books about pet death can be very helpful. Reading books with pictures and a story line can open up deep back-and-forth conversations about the topics of love, loss and what happens after a pet dies. These books can help us as parents remain open and honest about what happened. In doing so, we allow our children to grieve the painful loss in a safe and honest environment. Ultimately this helps them endure other sorts of loss in the future. 

2) Holding a Pet Memorial 

Creating a ceremony or ritual to highlight and recognize the life your pet lived is incredibly important for children. Funerals or memorial services are not societally defined for pet death, but don't let that stop you from holding one. It is a meaningful way to celebrate your pets life and it gives your child a dedicated time and place to process their complex emotions with all of the love and support of familiar family and friends around them. There are many ways to hold a memorial in honor of a pet. Here is just one example; invite family or friends to come over, scatter your pets ashes, plant a tree or place a personalized stone in the yard, have everyone tell a personal story about your pet and let everyone grieve with the love and support of one another around them. 

3) Volunteer

If your child is not feeling too emotionally fragile, volunteering with your local shelter can be a great way to honor the loss of a pet. Feeding, cuddling and walking pets in need can help heal a broken heart, especially if you frame it as an act in honor of a lost pet. If your child in not quiet emotionally ready to spend one on one time with other pets, an alternative is to donate supplies (food, toys or blankets) to pets in need. It can be as simple as collecting old blankets and towels you have around the house and dropping off at the shelters front desk. It is a simple act that can go miles. 

Best, 

Dr. Rose