Guest Post By: Nat Juchems, Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials
A death in the family is always a difficult, emotionally-charged situation. In many ways, the loss of a pet can be devastating. Dogs are family members who are always present, a source of comfort through difficult times, and a wellspring of joy. When it’s their time to cross the rainbow bridge, their absence is heartbreaking.
You’ll likely find that your children will experience particularly strong emotions at this time — especially if they’re young and have (hopefully) had limited experience with death. They may not know how to cope. It’s important to remember that they haven’t just lost a pet; they’ve lost a friend, a sibling, and a trusted confidante.
We’ve pulled together a few useful tips and approaches you can use to help them through this time. You may even find the journey you take with your young ones will also help you process the death of your beloved furry companion.
Keep Them Involved (As Much As You Can)
One of the most important steps you can take to help your kids through this time is to keep them present wherever appropriate. Don’t shut them out. As parents, it’s in our nature to protect our kids from experiences that might be painful or difficult. However, hiding this process from your kids only makes it more scary for them.
If your family pet is suffering from a fatal illness, keep an honest yet age-appropriate dialogue open with your children. While difficult, explain what’s happening to their furry family member. Keep them in the loop during treatments, and prepare in advance for the difficulty of their pup passing.
Of course, death can sometimes be sudden — either through injury or an assumed minor ailment that requires euthanasia. It’s no less important during these times to keep your child involved. Talk frankly, yet sensitively, about what happened to their dog. Children are remarkably resilient and curious. With some, it may even be useful to let them talk to your veterinarian. The important thing is, don’t make them feel as though they are being left outside of the situation.
In many ways, grieving the death of a pet is no different than a human family member. Too often, we fall into the habit of not talking about a loved one who has passed away, for fear of causing upset. However, this can send the message that your child’s beloved animal is a subject that should be ignored, as should the feelings associated with them.
Be open about your own emotions and talk about the moments you miss most. Invite your children to share their feelings, prompt them to ask any questions they may have, and continue to talk it through as a family.
For many children, the world is still experienced in black-and-white terms, balanced by a sense of the fair and unfair. These aren’t discussions that should necessarily be taken all in one go, but you can inquire about their thoughts over a period of time.
Keep The Memory Alive
Fido may be gone, but he shouldn’t be forgotten. The process of memorializing a loved one who has passed is incredibly important and can get the entire family involved.
If your dog was cremated, get your kids involved by creating a DIY cremation urn. They can contribute to the initial design, lend a supervised hand to the woodwork aspects, and even help decorate it. Get together to select a favorite photo to put inside the urn, or talk about a special toy that might make a good addition. These kinds of activities help create a valuable ritual around the memorialization of the pet.
Memorialization isn’t just for the immediate aftermath of a death, either. Find ways to keep the memory alive throughout the year. You can celebrate birthdays by making cards and invite them to draw fun pictures of your passed pooch. Remember the good times and always be there to talk about the difficult ones.
For many children, the memory of the day the family pet died will be painful for a long time. This goes to illustrate just how important our animals can be in our lives — they truly are members of the family. Sometimes the best way you can help your children through this time of grief is by keeping them involved, keeping a dialogue open, and inviting them to use their creativity, joy, and love in celebrating the memory of their furry best friend.
Nat Juchems is the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials. Nat helps those grieving the loss of a beloved pet find the right memorial to cherish.
Before becoming the Marketing Director at Green Meadow Memorials, Nat worked for six years in the memorials e-commerce industry as a Marketing Director and Ecommerce Director, using his skill set to manage powerful paid search and organic search campaigns as well as implement merchandising strategies and manage the software development teams that made everything work.
Nat enjoys spending time with his family and balancing that with training for triathlons.