Loss of a Pet
● By Anonymous
When we lost our St. Bernard/Basset mix, in my eyes, we were fortunate to be with him as he died. We were just leaving town for Christmas when the kennel workers called and let us know that they needed to bring Homer to the emergency vet clinic. We met them at the clinic and were able to spend the final minutes with him. My three boys, aged 8, 6 and 3 all reacted differently to this situation, which can be expected because when it comes to loss, there isn't “one way” to grieve. My oldest seemed uncomfortable and unsure as to how to act. My second-born was very emotional and tearful, and my youngest didn't really know what was happening at the time and truly didn't understand until we got back from vacation and he kept asking, “Where’s Homer?”
What advice do you have for families in the same situation?
Answer your children’s questions honestly and appropriately for their developmental level. Use it as a learning experience and a way to teach the finality of death. I noticed my six-year-old started connecting our pet’s death to human life as he began asking more questions about relatives we have lost. He knew that his relatives had died in years past, but he didn't really seem to “get it” until the loss of Homer. When he saw that death meant being permanently gone in the physical form, he started to ask more questions about how others had died. Be careful about saying things like “they were sick” or “they went away” when children ask about how someone died as they might start getting anxious, which may cause separation issues, particularly in regards to parents and other close adults.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Wait until you are fully ready to get another pet. Take time to talk about your loss with your children and process through it to make sure everyone is ready.
The ASPCA offers many resources and support for families and children grieving the loss of a pet.