Death of a Pet

Helping Kids Cope with Pet Loss

They were, of course, devastated.

A year ago, we lost our family dog. Maggie was the pup we’d had since before my ex and I were married. She was an everyday part of our lives and even after separation, she split her time between the two houses. Bugsy, on the other hand, was my ex’s dog he adopted for the kids. They loved that squish-faced bull dog and his loss is being felt as deeply as Maggie’s. And while Bugsy was a good dog—if slightly annoying with his chewing habits when he came over in the morning to pick up the kids—he wasn’t my dog and my sadness for his loss is rooted in sympathetic sadness for my ex and the kids.

I’ve put into play the very effective ways of coping with pet loss we utilized after Maggie’s passing. I’m hoping they help as much now as they did then.

1. Allow the kids to say good-bye. We found having the kids say their goodbyes at a doggy funereal helps with the healing process. We had them draw pictures, select stones for the top of his grave, and say a few words about what they’ll miss.

2. Recognize grief doesn’t necessarily mean crying. Elizabeth has been acting extra clingy and throwing tantrums since Bugsy’s death. I think, as with the loss of any loved one, giving her the freedom to express grief in different ways means holding her and kissing her when she’s screaming over her skinny jeans.

3. Read the rainbow bridge poem. I’ve always felt all dogs (and cats!) go to heaven. We read the poem and then talked about how Bugsy is playing with Maggie at the end of the Rainbow Bridge.

How have you helped your children cope with the loss of a pet?

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