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Helping Children Grieve Your Small Pet

Finding the right process in saying goodbye is important when helping children grieve your small pet. After all, a small pet is a creature with which they have formed an incredible bond. It hurts to say goodbye, but doing so will help a child feel better sooner.

For most children, the loss of a pet may be their first encounter with death. It can be a confusing time for them. They may have a hard time making sense of the situation at hand and dealing with normal everyday things after the death of a pet. It is important as parents and pet owners that death is as much a part of life as birth and that it is completely normal. They need to understand that once a pet has died, they cannot make them come back.

One thing that is incredibly helpful is to have on-hand a supply of photos of the pet. Long before a pet is ill or dying, take photos of the child and pet together doing normal things like playing and normal care of the animal. The child will love the photos before a pet passes and will appreciate the fun they were having when it was taken. They will remember a happier time and the love they and their pet felt for each other. When the pet does actually pass away, you will have those photos. You can take them out and share a special time with your kids remembering the better days, which can go a long way in taking a child through the grieving process. It is recommended that you have double prints as well. That way the child can have their own set to use and you can have one to hold on to just in case any are ruined.

Art projects can encourage a child to express his grief when he is unable to put his feelings into words. Those photos you have can be used for this as well. Paper, crayons and markers, glue, stickers, and embellishments like yarn and sequins can soon be turned into a card or wall hanging for your child to see and touch and remember their pet. Kids can’t always say what they are feeling, but that expression can come out in many different ways if adults are able to get creative as well. Another thing to create is a scrapbook made by a child’s hand as a memorial to a pet.

Expect that your child will go through many emotions. Crying jags and temper tantrums are completely normal when a pet has died. It is often difficult to remember in a pinch that your child may be reacting badly to your request that he eat his peas because he feels bad for his loss. Be patient and understanding and give him time to process how he feels. If you think the process is taking too long or your child does not seem to be making progress, ask your pediatrician or veterinarian questions about how kids deal with the loss of a small pet. Their reassurance may be all you need to boost your confidence in yourself and your child.

Helping children grieve your small pet is never easy, but it can offer you and your child a chance to heal together.

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