Helping Family and Children Cope with Dog Loss, Death, & the Passing of a Dog
The passing of a dog for a family can be a tough situation to go through but it is best to look at this time as an early opportunity to help you and your family deal with the death, especially if you have young children. Here are a few pointers when addressing the death of your dog:
1. We don’t recommend lying to your child or saying something like, “the dog ran away to the ‘farm’.” It is best to accept the truth of the situation and help the members of your family to embrace the idea of the death. If you have older children, they are usually able to conceptualize more. Not telling them the truth about the passing of a dog may lead the child to not believe other things you tell them in the future.
2. Parents should share feelings about the dog’s death with the child. Try being honest and open about how you feel. Let the child know that it’s okay to cry. Being truthful about your feelings with the child will help them understand what’s going on.
3. Keep communications open between you and the child so this way you are able to help them process their emotions. If a child had an emotion that they are not used to having you will be able to explain to them why it’s okay to feel that way.
4. Honor your child’s feelings. They shouldn’t feel bad about being sad or angry about the pet’s death. If it takes them longer to mourn about the death just stay by their side until they feel better about the situation. Try keeping the child busy for the next few days after the death of the dog to show that they can still have fun after such a tragic loss.
5. If a child keeps his or her feelings inside, there are several ways you can get them to express how they feel without directly speaking about the death. You can have them share memories about the dog, draw a picture of a good time, or make a collage with pictures of the dog as a memory to keep in the home. You can even have your child write a story about a memory of the dog or a story of the good place the dog is now.
6. Funerals for the dogs are a great way to honor and memorialize the pet. You may choose to bury your pet in your yard somewhere nice and peaceful, at a pet cemetery, or you may choose to have your dog cremated in which you can bury the ashes or keep them somewhere safe in your home. Whatever the case may be, you may give your child some flowers to place in the back yard with the dog. A little stone, statue, dog figurines,dog ornaments, even a picture of the dog is a great way to peacefully remember your beloved pet.
Please remember to look at the death of your family dog as a learning time for the children, as well as the parents. How your child deals with the passing of a dog can tell you a lot about the child, and possibly bring to light something that can be addressed early on.
Kim is the co-owner of DogLoverStore with her husband, John. She earned her BS in operations management at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She enjoys walking in nature, gardening in the sun, eating sour candy, going on drives, yoga, and reading.