5 Resources for Explaining Pet Loss to Kids
Breccan got to meet our friend's dog the other day. "Is she in the sky?" he asked me, by which he meant had she died. My poor heart nearly broke - for any other kid, that may have been just a weird question. But Breccan has seen a lot of animal loss in the last year, so for him that is a legitimate question. In the last year, we have had to put down 3 of the extended family pets. We are so lucky to still have our Ger, and there are a few cats that have a lot of life in them. But the 3 pets we've lost were the pets Breccan knew best besides Ger. He still talks about all 3 of them relatively often, as do we all. Explaining death to a toddler or preschooler is not easy. It was a conversation I was really hoping we could put off until we were able to do the whole "get a fish, teach kid about death" game. But true to form, Breccan has handled these little deaths with openness to talking and acceptance. Phew. We did find a few resources we would recommend. Kids Health has a breakdown of things to say, things to not say, emotions your child may feel, and ways to express grief. It's a great primer. Nick and I like to believe in heaven, but I would rather allow my kids to come to their own understanding about afterlife/spirituality/religion without me putting too much in their formative minds about what we personally believe. I like to teach Breccan hard concepts with books. It gives me a script, and B seems to learn well that way. Ella and the Balloons in the Sky manages to give death a permanence while still painting a kind of magical picture that allows kids to still feel like they can interact with their pet. It's a pricier book, but Breccan really loved it. When my mother in law's dog died, Breccan and I went through pictures we had of him. It was a healing thing for both of us (his loss was particularly sudden and hard). Having your child help pick a photo for a special frame, canvas print, or even a pillow would be helpful.If your kid and the pet were particularly close, you could always get them a needle-felted or plush replica. These are not cheap, but so sweet (I may need one if anything happens to Ger).