The loss of a pet is never easy, but it can be especially hard on young children. Your kids are probably confused about death and that means they will feel especially devastated when their favorite pet passes away. If you are not sure how to handle this situation, the following guide can be used to help your children cope and learn from the experience.

Break the News Gently

In some situations, your pet may be suffering from a long illness, so your kids will understand that the pet isn't feeling well. This gives you extra time to prepare your children for the inevitable death of your pet, so it's important to have discussions early. You should make sure your kids understand that the pet isn't going to get better, so they will be prepared in advance. If the death is sudden, you should be just as forthcoming in sharing the news. If you try to hide the truth, or delay sharing the news, this can complicate the grieving process and raise mistrustful feelings.

Don't Hide Your Feelings

Your children will look to you to learn how to cope with this loss, especially if this is their first experience with death. If you hide your feelings, your kids may be afraid to express their own feelings. It's healthier for you and better for your children if you openly share your grief with them. When you share your own feelings, they'll feel more comfortable and more willing to open up to you. It may even help them to know that you've lost a pet before, so they will see that life goes on.

Be Prepared for Questions

Once the news has been shared, be sure your children know they can talk to you about their feelings at any time. Once you promise to be there for them, you will have to be prepared to follow through. In learning how to deal with the loss of a pet, your children will have many questions. You should know how you'll respond to questions about death, so their questions won’t catch you by surprise. If they do come to you with uncomfortable questions, answer as honestly as you can without delving into too much detail. It may be enough to simply explain that the pet is no longer suffering and is playing in a happy place.

Arrange a Memorial Service

Having a memorial service for your pet can help give you and your kids a sense of closure. You can each say something nice about the pet, wish him well, or share a favorite memory to help make this event as positive as possible. If you have a burial spot for your pet, you can take your children to visit it. Many families choose to have the pet cremated. If this is the case, you can create a memorial around the urn. You can invite your children to make decorations for it, or leave gifts for the pet that mean something to them. The memorial can be in a room of your house, or you can set it up in a corner of your yard, so your kids can visit it whenever they wish.

Focus on a Happier Future

Immediately after the pet's death, it will be more important to focus on everyone's feelings and on laying the pet to rest. However, as time goes on and your children experience less grief, you should begin focusing on the future. You may decide this includes getting a new pet for your family. If that's the case, explain to your kids that the new pet isn't meant as a replacement. Instead, help your children understand that your deceased pet would want them to love and care for another pet. They should be excited about giving a loving home to another cat or dog in need, so let them know they don't have to feel guilty about sharing your home with another pet.

Helping your children grieve the loss of your pet will also help you move forward. You can alter these suggestions to fit your situation or beliefs as needed to ensure everyone in your family is able to process this loss. Before long, you and your children will embrace the idea that your pet is no longer suffering, and you can focus on the happy memories you all shared with the pet.

Author's Bio: 

Katie earned a BA in English from WWU and loves to write. She also adores hiking in redwood forests and photography. She feels happiest around a campfire surrounded by friends and family.