For many children and teens, the death of a pet is their first experience with loss and grief. Dougy Center's newest resource, Supporting Children & Teens After the Death of a Pet or Companion Animal, was created in partnership with DoveLewis Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Hospital in Portland.
This new resource provides information and language to help adults support children and teens before and after the death of a companion animal. Thank you to Debrah Lee, LCSW, Veterinary Well-Being Program Director for DoveLewis, for sharing these insights.
It's natural to want to protect your children and spare them from pain, but this experience with death, loss, and grief can help shape how your child will think about and respond to other losses in the future. Remember that children absorb information from many sources, and being open and honest in your communication gives you the best opportunity to help them understand what is happening and what to expect.
You can allow children and teens to be part of the process by staying open and encouraging questions. Be mindful that too much information, especially all at once, may be overwhelming or lead to confusion. Follow your child’s lead and offer honest, simple, and direct responses to their questions.
Talking openly to children about their companion animal’s illness can help them prepare and provide opportunities to say good-bye — perhaps through a letter, a drawing, or by creating more loving memories. Using age-appropriate books can help children begin to process their companion’s illness and death as well.
Often, a companion animal’s death is sudden and unexpected. If this is true for your family, being honest about what happened, using books, and finding ways to still say goodbye can be ways to help children and teens begin to process the loss.
Find the resource here and continue reading