By Coleen Ellis, pet loss and grief expert, for Pets Best Insurance.
Just the mere thought of one of our precious pets dying can be unbearable. The reality of a new normal, life without their unconditional love, and future days void of this pet’s quirky personality to brighten our day can immediately illicit tears from deep within oneself.
Death is a part of life. And, like the saying goes, “Saying good-bye is the most difficult thing in life. And we never learn to be good at it.”
Yes, death is a part of life. While few people like the thought of this, it will happen to all of us. Therefore, taking a bit of time to prepare for the inevitable in life will help in eliminating those feelings of anxiousness, those fears of the unknown in having the answers as to what one’s options are with the death of a pet.
How to Be a Companion To a Grieving Heart Through Honoring the Story
As we take this journey together in understanding pet loss and the grief process, it’s important that we understand some of the basics of these emotions. We’ll cover topics from the definitions of grief and mourning to why pet loss is considered a “disenfranchised grief” for many suffering the loss of a beloved pet.
Grief is what we feel on the inside. It’s the intense feeling that sits within our heart, our stomach and our entire being that says we hurt from this loss. The loss can be death, divorce, a child moving away, illness, loss of a job or a variety of other things that represent someone no longer having something.
Children are organic mourners. Adults are the barometer for how children will handle death, therefore, the healthiest way to help a child adjust to the death of a pet is to give them honest, simple explanations. Show them that it’s okay to be sad and allow them to do what comes naturally to them.
From a young age, children begin to understand the concept of death, even though they may be unaware of it at a conscious level. “Any child old enough to love is old enough to mourn,” says Alan Wolfelt, PhD., world-renowned grief expert.
When a pet is dying, it may be more difficult for a child to resolve the grief experienced if the child is not told the truth. Avoid phrases like put to sleep, God needed an angel, or a special shot. All of these statements can be conflicting for a child and emit fears when they go to bed, go to church, or see the doctor for a shot.
Support children and their grief by acknowledging their pain. The death of a pet can be an opportunity for a child to learn that adult caretakers can be relied upon to extend comfort and reassurance. It is an important opportunity to encourage a child to express his or her feelings.
1. Allow the child the opportunity to see the deceased pet and to say their final good-byes. Respecting the time that a child has spent with a deceased pet by letting them have time for a final good-bye will do wonders in the child’s grief journey.