Grief Support | Losing a pet
Information provided by Furkids Veterinary Surgery ©
Euthanasia & Grief Support for children
It’s one of the unfortunate inevitable facts. We love hard. We break hard. Pets come into our lives and serve more than ‘a purpose’. They become one of us, we document their lives as if it’s a child. We share strong bonds & they become our best friends. I can strongly say that every dog I’ve owned has been a “one in a million” dog, and I could never have imagined losing them & the pain it brought me.
But besides our own hearts that are breaking, who else suffers?
Our children grow, hug, learn responsibilities & learn the power of love from us, and no other than our pets. Often they are seen sharing a treat, going on an adventure & casually lying on the grass in the sunshine together. So it’s safe to say, that they will also suffer when the time comes to say goodbye.
I’ve recently found a post on a Facebook forum about whether or not we should involve our children in the final step. Amongst mixed emotions, I needed to share some of my advise. Having been in the situation a few times before, and also being in the veterinary industry for most my working life, I can honestly say, it’s a very personal decision, however, if you choose you involve your children, there’s some beauty amongst the heartbreak, and here’s a few ideas that will help.
Above all, pets are amongst the biggest lessons that a child can be a part of. Life & death. The good and the bad. Let your child know what is happening. Regardless of age, they can take in more than you realise. If you feel as though you need to hide something, ask yourself this: do you think it’s you, or your child that won’t be able to deal with the consequences in the long term? If they say “I miss my dog”, try seeing it from this point of view - they felt love, gave love & can continue to acknowledge love. And to continue to nurture honesty & emotions, your child will learn that your love & support will help them through.
If your pet will soon be euthanised, explain to your child about pain & discomfort and that this is a decision that will take away all of that for your pet. Let them ask questions. It’s okay to be upset, it’s a part of emotions and all the ways we deal with grief.
Arrange something special, a picnic, a special moment, let the pets sleep inside or on a special bed, a treat, a cuddle, ceremony, whatever your child chooses. Memories last forever, and it will help them knowing they were able to make those last moments special.
If you feel comfortable to do so, let your child know the simple details of euthanasia. Children are incredibly resilient, and always want to know more. It’s up to you about how much you tell, but if they ask questions, take a moment to answer them the best you can.
I often find that involving children in the process eliminates the ‘missing pieces’ that most children crave. They can deal with circumstances so much more efficiently if they have a basic understanding. They ask so many questions, it’s a part of learning & growing.
Finally, if you choose to bring your pet home for burial or decide on cremation, your child will no doubt want to ask plenty of more questions. Give them time, tell them that their pet is no longer in pain. They are now in a better place - and whether or not you’re Christian, let them choose a scenario that suits you. Perhaps the pet has gone to heaven? A green field with lots of space and happiness? Lots of toys and treats and friends?
Remembering them is just as important. Perhaps choosing a favourite place in the yard, momento or even a special star in the sky will help if ever they miss them, they can spend some time and think about their pet. Most importantly, and from our experience in this situation, we find honesty is the best policy. Be open & answer their questions.
If you need any more advise on dealing with these feelings with children, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We have been in the same situation and we know only too well, how much it can hurt.
“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you...”
Winnie the Pooh