Losing a pet is one of the most painful things you can experience and it can be even more difficult and confusing for a child. How do you explain where their pet has gone? Are you at a loss for words?
Although I’ve been through the loss of my sweet Galaxy, I still struggle to find the right words and would certainly find it hard to explain to a child.
I received a sweet book by Erin Albright, called Sassie’s New Home. New home in the title refers to Heaven. Erin was asked by the children in her life what happened to her dog after it went to Heaven. Those questions led her to write this comforting story.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Alexandra Hombs and helps console children after a sad loss. It’s a simple story of life on earth with Sassie and how things change over time with age and eventually making her journey to Heaven.
Erin partnered with Rejuvenate Mind-Body Wellness Center to pull together some helpful information for parents and families on the topic of pet loss. Child Therapist Natasha Symes, M.S., provided her with these tips to help families:
● Be honest and gentle when telling your child that the pet has died. Saying that the pet went to sleep or ran away can be confusing and cause children to feel fearful or have hope that the pet might return.
● Express emotions. Show them it’s okay by talking about and expressing your feelings. Kids might feel sad, mad, confused, or a variety all at once. It’s normal to feel this way. Listen to them talk about their feelings and comfort them. Emotion is temporary and will eventually pass when expressed and validated.
● Reflect. Share your memories and listen to kids tell stories about their pet. Look at photos together. Kids might want to draw pictures or write stories about their memories of their pet.
● Memorialize. A simple ceremony where everyone shares their favorite memory and says goodbye can be healing. A collar or food dish could be kept as a keepsake.
● Grief is a process and is different for everyone. It might seem that a accepted the death one day and then the next day they are sad and upset again. This is normal. Continue to comfort and validate their feelings.
I don’t have children but I would want to read this story to a child experiencing grief to help them have some peace and understanding.
If you can’t find the right words I recommend Sassie’s New Home. It can help your entire family cope with the loss of a beloved pet.
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