Helping Children cope with Pet Bereavement

How much do you involve children, how to tell them, how to manage their emotion when you are struggling to manage your own are all very tough questions and situations at a very difficult time.


Should children be informed?

YES. Learning to accept illness, injury and death are all experiences of life and if handled well can give children the experience necessary to copy with similar situations in the future.

Its important that children have the opportunity to be part of the discussions and understanding.

It often feels easier to hide worry and anxiety away from children but unfortunately by doing this they create their own stories which may result in adverse emotional reactions.

How much they understand and how much information given is age, personality, and maturity dependent. Letting your child guide, you with additional question is often best. The wellbeing of the child is the main focus, and their participation should never be forced.

How to help

Be honest.

Prepare children ahead of time for what to expect. Hold a family meeting to discuss the vets diagnosis, prognosis and the pets quality of life.

Show emotion, being sad is ok.

Showing that you are upset is important and allowing them to be upset and be able to share their feelings. Listening to them is important.

Let them express grief in their own way

Children grieve differently, this can come out as laughter, aggression, hostility. Be patient and supportive.

Try and redirect behaviours that are inappropriate and seek support of grief counsellors such as Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Line if further support is required.


Inform others of whats happeneing in your childs life.


Teachers, friends,parents and relatives so they can keep a watchful eye.


Understanding euthanasia

 They need to understand and have an opportunity to say goodbye. Helping them understand in an age-appropriate way and with words that they can understand. If the child wants to be present then allow them the choice. Older children may want some time afterwards with the deceased pet so they can express their emotions privately.


What happens next?

If you plan to have your pet cremated, explain that the pet will be taken to a pet cemetery, a place where the pets body will be turned to ashes. Then as a family you can decide where you would like the ashes to be. Creating a memorial or a memory box or picture for small children can help with the grief process.

Carefully consider before getting a new pet as sometimes it can take the pain away from grief, but it leaves it unresolved.

It can sometimes imply that grief is unimportant and un necessary.

Children can learn through grief about the special and uniqueness of relationships.

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