More Than Meets the Eye, True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife covers many aspects of the dying and grieving process and sheds light on euthanasia, suicide, near-death experience, and spirit visits after the passing of a loved one. ___________________________________________

Thursday, February 18, 2010

How to Deal With a Death of a Pet With Children

The death of a pet can be very sad. It's made more difficult with young children because they have a hard time understanding death. Explaining it can be tough. If you tell your five-year-old their cat has passed on they might be clueless as to what "passed on" means. "Lucky, passed on where, Mom? Did she go across the street?" Even if you use the word death, young children have a hard time grasping how long death is. If you explain to your child that death means a long period of time you still might get, "Does that mean Spot will come back in three weeks?" Three weeks is a long time to a five-year-old. At age six I still couldn't understand how long summer was. My older brother showed me a calendar and flipped up three pages saying that's how long it was. That helped. Some. At least I knew it was for a long time. You actually have to tell your child their beloved pet will not be coming back. You can't pussy foot around death. Death is final. You do not want your child to think an animal is coming back if it's not. Please do not tell your child that Pickles went to live on a big farm in Idaho if Pickles died. This is a lie and serves no purpose. And your lie can be exposed. However, if your family's belief system is that there is an afterlife you can tell your child you believe Fluffy is in Heaven. This is a belief. It differs from "Pickles went to live in Idaho." This statement is a lie because you're purposely being deceptive. It's a deliberate falsehood. You know Pickles did not go there.

Children grieve in different ways. One of your children might sob, another could pester you with questions, and your last child might get real quiet and refuse to talk. Each child has their own personality. And because of that each had a different relationship with the deceased pet. Moreover, one child could have been closer to the family pet than another. Did the pet sleep in bed with them? It won't anymore. And that's sad. Be kind. Don't brush away your child's feeling and tell them to buck up. If you offer to take them for ice cream to cheer them up, do NOT renege on it if they say no. They might be feeling so heartsick they can't eat right now. Take your child in a week.

The death of a family dog can be very upsetting to a child. Especially if it was an indoor dog. House dogs interact with the family more. Therefore, children will get more attached to them. So be there for your child. Have a shoulder for them to cry on. Let them know it is okay to grieve. Even if you as a parent weren't particularly close to the family pet be empathetic. Give extra hugs. Ask your child if they would like to create a photo album of Shaggy. Write near each picture the occasion, what's happening, and with whom. On the last page you can attach a note with something like, "We love you Shaggy! Thanks for being our dog and loving us. You were much appreciated." Or "Shaggy, you'll be missed. You'll be in our hearts always." Or your child can write a personal letter to their dog and sign their name. They can put the letter in a picture pocket of the album to be shared years later. Remember dogs give unconditional love. They love you whether you're rich, poor, short, tall, dress well, or are unkempt. There is maybe one string attached to their love, which is "be kind to me." Unlike humans they don't have worldly "expectations" of how you should be. They love you just as you are. And older children know this. Their dog loved them just as they were. If your child had a particular hard day and was naughty, and you punished them, Shaggy was still a ready friend. He was ready to give a consoling lick on the face. On the worst of days a child really needs a cuddle. Shaggy was there to be hugged close and to listen to grievances against you. He didn't judge. He just loved.

Some children like to have a small memorial service for their pet. I've been to many pet services in backyards. Fish. Hamster. Rat. Turtle. Lizard. Depending on where you live, bigger pets, such as dogs or cats, have to be buried in a pet cemetery or be taken to a place to be cremated. You should check. You can still have a small memorial service. The memorial can be just sharing good memories. "Remember how Rover would lay down low and sneak over to the counter and steal pizza?" Then it was a pain, now it's a funny memory. Maybe one child will draw a picture of good times with Rover. Another child might read a poem they wrote. A memorial service provides closure. Which is important. That's why saying your pet went to live in Idaho when he didn't is wrong. There is no closure.

In The Sid Series story titled “Puppy Love ~ Dealing With the Death of a Pet,” I wrote about pet death. If you have a child who needs comfort after losing a pet, please let them read this story. Here’s a summary:

Scrap had been the family’s dog for many years before Sidney was born. One morning she didn’t come when she was called to breakfast. Learn how Sidney and Von-Von deal with the death of the family pet and the arrival of a new one. This story alludes to reincarnation and teaches children to cope with the death of a pet.

And here is a link to purchase the story as an e-book or the printed book on

Jay Marie has a B.A. in the Behavioral Sciences, Sociology. She is a Former Nanny to children with parents in the Entertainment Industry. Find parenting programs to help you and your child at Harmony in the Home. To find more parenting articles and to get useful tips, family movie reviews, children's book reviews, and family activities/child art projects follow my BLOG

For more information, you might enjoy reading the complete book More Than Meets the Eye True Stories about Death, Dying, and Afterlife. Purchase on


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