|No matter what choice you make for the final disposition of your pet, remember that you may be experiencing feelings of grief similar to those we have when a loved one dies. The time your pet dies is a difficult time. Perhaps your grieving had been started if your pet had a terminal illness. Maybe you came home one night and found your special pal curled up in his bed, and he just had not awakened from sleep. Whether the death was sudden or slow, grief is inevitable – and necessary.
When grief can be expressed, healing can begin. In addition, healing takes a shorter time when your feelings can be voiced. Children often do not know how to express their grief and many times show it differently then adults. Adults can be confused when a child does not show the same signs of grief as an adult. Children grieve in ways that often are not understood by adults. Be accepting and understanding and be aware children may not seem unhappy and yet still be grieving.
Grief expert and clinical psychologist, Kelly Baltzell, offers this information on helping your child deal with grief:
- Death is part of a child’s life-especially with TV and video games. However, they learn that death is permanent as they get older.
- Children do experience death through losing pets, family members, friends and people at school. If you do not talk about the loss children might think you are hiding something from them.
- Kids will use their own imaginations to fill in gaps about death if they have no way to talk about or express their loss. Their imaginations might be more scary than real life.
- Kids who are not included loose the opportunity to learn and be part of family events. Children learn from adults how to act, behave and express emotions.
- Children who are not included in the death process can develop anxiety and may get resentful.
- Kids are very aware of their surroundings.
Death brings opportunities to work through grief for children and adults. There are many acceptable ways to get feelings “out”. Here are some ideas to help you get your grief process started.
Talk to others: Cry and laugh and remember with warmness all the happy times. Be sure to discuss your feelings of loss yourself, and have your children do the same. When talking honestly with children be careful of your wording. For example, if you had to euthanize your pet, never use the terms “put to sleep” or “gone away”. Children can become afraid to sleep at night, or worry that you will do the same to them as you did to your pet if they become sick.
Celebrate the Life of the Pet: Find closure by having a funeral or memorial service. Have your children help plan the service. If your pet has been cremated consider where you will put the ashes. There are many options available now that include a home memorial garden, a pet cemetery, or organization like Eternal Reefs where the ashes of the pet help make a reef out in the ocean.
Memorialize: Having visual memories of a pet can help children and adults through their grieving process. Creating or displaying the memorial can help get feelings expressed. Activities for your children can include making a picture, writing a poem or story, or creating a scrapbook of your pet. Perhaps you could frame a special photo or a paw print of your pet. In the spring and summer planting a flower or buying a little garden statue for the yard or house is a healing way to grieve. Contact us to purchase grave markers and or photo cards.
Make a Donation: Giving to others while grieving seems to help people during this difficult time. Make a donation to the animal shelter, or give a scholarship to the veterinary clinic for someone else that might not be able to afford services there for their pet. After you have had time to grieve and want to have the presence of an animal around, consider donating your time with animals. Many humane shelters need people to walk dogs, to foster animals and to help in the adoption process.
Getting a New Pet: After the loss of a pet, some people want to get a new one right away, in hopes it will help ease their pain. This is not recommended since it does not give you time to grieve and heal. A new pet can never be a replacement for the pet you lost.