When a Pet Dies: Who’s Going to Tell the Kids?
Bolt, the Yorkie-Poo guest columnist: I recently learned that before I became a member of my loving household, there was another fun-loving pup that stole the hearts of everyone he met. His name was Bentley. After only being in the family for two months, he became gravely ill and spent three weeks at the vet’s office. The vet struggled to figure out exactly what was wrong with Bentley, but it soon became obvious that poor “Ben-Ben” was not going to get any better, so the family tearfully decided to put him to sleep. I can tell that Ben-Ben was adored by my family. I know I am not a “replacement” dog, but I just hope I can keep them as happy and entertained as Bentley did. However, because there are three young boys in the house, I wanted to speak to how adults can tell children about the loss of a beloved pet. It’s not an easy thing to do.
As a parent or guardian, you are truly the best judge of how much information you kids can handle about the loss of their pet. However, don’t underestimate your kids. Just be honest and open with them, answering all of their questions to the best of your ability.
That means, when you tell them that Fluffy was “put to sleep,” you should explain the difference between ordinary sleep and death. It is not a good idea to tell your children that their pet “went away,” as they will probably wonder where it went and why…perhaps thinking they did something to cause that event. The child may even be resistant to a new pet, thinking that Fluffy might return some day.
Make it clear that the pet will not come back, but be sure to let your kids know that Fluffy is happy and free from pain. Allow the tears to flow from your kids, never critizing them for how they feel. Let them see your own sorrow for the loss of your pet. Let the whole family together discuss how they feel and give each member adequate time and space for grieving and healing. Everyone does this at his or her own pace.
I know Ben-Ben is running around up in Heaven somewhere, and I hope I get to meet him some day when my number is called. Until then, I will happily enjoy the stash of cool toys he left! Now THAT, my friend, is a true legacy!
Until later….may all of your pets leave footprints in your heart….and not on your freshly-cleaned floors!
Thanks to pet-loss.net for this awesome insight!