Coping with the death of a pet

You can help your child cope with the death of a pet by helping her to understand that loss and grief are a natural part of the cycle of life. Encourage your child to tell you what she is feeling and answer any questions. There are also books available in the children’s section of the library about a pet’s death, that you can read and talk about together.

Remember, it’s not the size or kind of pet that matters, but how important it was to your child – so don’t say things like, “It was only a goldfish.” If your child feels you don’t approve of the depth of his loss, it just makes it harder for him to cope.

It may be comforting for your child to have some kind of a farewell ceremony for the pet. Put a picture of the pet in your child’s bedroom. Encourage everyone in the family to talk about their special memories of the pet.

It’s not a good idea, while your child is grieving intensely, to try and distract him with fun activities. It can be very hard to accept the loss of a pet that was really loved. Children need time to experience all their feelings and accept the loss. Don’t rush to replace a pet in an attempt to help the child feel happy. Grief is an important natural process for all of us to learn about.

It is not unusual for a child to feel strongly and intensely sad about the death of a beloved pet for a period of six to eight weeks. However, if it lasts longer than this, consult your child’s physician. It may also be helpful to consult your child’s daycare provider or school teacher to see if this behaviour is happening away from home, too.