I recently lost my beloved pet, Melvin. It is super hard for me, and I’m fifty-two! I think of all the children in my life & especially those who knew Melvin. A lot of their parents explained that Melvin was sick & that he died. I didn’t say anything to the kids simply letting the parents handle it the way they saw appropriate.
The simple way these children expressed themselves and the innocence with which they talked to me about the death of Melvin was plain, to the point, and very matter of fact. It got me thinking. Is their way of approaching death the honest approach, is it that children don’t necessarily understand the finality of death, OR is grief something that we teach our children? I’m not really sure what the answer is. I do remember losing my first pet, Blossom, at the age of 6. My sister accidentally backed over her in the car; she was only 17 (my sister that is). The loss of Blossom, I remember, was devastating! Since then I’ve had a lot of pets, and lost a lot of pets, and it has never been easy. I don’t remember any of my family members crying as much as I did, so maybe I was just more sensitive to death.
I think that when we lose a pet we should simply explain to our children that our pet has died and address any questions they may have about the pet, if any. I’ve found that a lot of kids will be a little sad but then quickly move onto something they want to do. I don’t think it’s a good idea to push them into a discussion they may not want or even comprehend (remember…this is just my opinion, and I’m not a trained child psychologist…just someone who has been around children a lot). Also the child might have questions much later then you expect, for example; a month or more after the loss. Always be prepared to discuss death with your children with openness, honesty, and empathy but don’t push it. Sometimes in this day in age I feel that we push our children to express themselves, and a lot of times they really don’t have any feelings one way or another about it.
In the past we ignored anything tragic, and didn’t discuss it, and now, I feel, that we make our children discuss things they may not want to or aren’t ready to discuss. Trust me; children will ask questions about anything that they’re curious about as long as you’re open to them.
To all of those that have lost a pet; I know your pain and the heartbreak that goes with it. There is nothing like it in this world, but remember your children may not need as much discussion about it as you may think.