As adults, we find death a really difficult and painful subject. In the past people usually died at home and everyone in the family was involved. Today death is sanitized and swept under the carpet as most people die in hospital. We know that the physical loss of someone close can be unbearable; we have to learn to live with it. In our society death is a taboo subject. We need to talk openly and honestly to our children when we are faced with bereavement. To prepare them for the inevitability of death whether human or animal, talk to them in age appropriate terms about the cycle of life. Help them understand that animals have a shorter life span than humans.
If a pet develops an illness it is kinder to let the child know of their condition. Reassure them that everything is being done to make their pet better. Don’t promise a full recovery for the pet if you know that the outcome is bleak. It’s important not to trivialize or play down the pain of their passing.
When a pet dies the natural instinct for a parent is to protect their child from the pain of grief. This is counterproductive. To tell your child that the pet has moved away or has been adopted by someone else is wrong. Sooner or later they will have to face the reality of death. How you deal with death will influence them. To grow emotionally a child needs to know the truth and deal with their grief. They need to accept that it’s ok to cry and feel sad. It is very healthy to show your emotions and cry with them. Being stoic and keeping a stiff upper lip delays the mourning process and can cause an unhealthy emotional blockage for all of you. As parents we should lead by example and be honest, supportive and loving. Daring to show your vulnerability through this difficult time will enhance your child’s emotional health.
Talk about the pet after it has died; remember all the funny incidents shared with them. If your child tells you that they have seen their pet since it died, don’t tell them they are being silly. Children are more psychic and aware than most adults. Allow them the comfort of communicating with their pet in the spirit world. Involving them in the pets funeral allows them to express their grief. They need the opportunity to say goodbye. Keep a scrap book with pictures of their beloved pet and encourage everyone in the family to write down their memories.
Talk to one of our psychics. They can help identify how your child is feeling and the best way to deal with this painful subject. Every child reacts differently to bereavement. We can help guide you through the process.