Helping your child deal with the loss of a pet

If you follow me on social media you will know that we lost our beautiful Rosie on March 11th. And since then we have been heart broken and been left with what feels like an empty home. She had brought so much joy in to our lives and she was my companion during the day while the girls were at school.

Rosie was roughly aged 9 years old. She was a recuse cat from Peterborough Cats Protection and they guessed she was 1 or 2 years old. So really we thought that she had many years ahead of her still. However all of a sudden she went off her food and she just wasn’t herself. I watched her for 2 days and noticed she was leaving a lot of her food. In addition to this it looked like she was having problems breathing at times so I took her to the vets. I had to wait outside while the vet came to collect her. Apparently he checked her breathing, heart and felt her stomach and could see nothing wrong. He suggested maybe she had a problem with furballs and recommended some treatment and to give her fibre rich food (although there was no issue with her going to the toilet).

The following week her food intake reduced. However she seemed alert and was sometimes playing with Bee so I wasn’t overly overly concerned. On the Thursday she seemed to have gotten worse as I noticed when the girls came home from school her breathing appeared worse. I made the decision to return to the vets in the morning and insist on further tests. That was my mistake; I should have taken her then and there. In the evening she came crying into the house clearly in pain, rolling around on the floor. While I phoned the emergency vets she somehow got herself up the stairs and under my bed. As I tried to encourage her to come out she starting convulsing and I think she breathed her last as I put her in the pet carrier as she then went quiet. The vets rushed out as soon as I arrived but it was too late, in my heart I already knew. They think it was heart failure due to the amount of fluid she brought up.

In particular it affected Bee, who at 8 years old was brought up with the cat. We brought Rosie in to our home when Bee was about 1 years old, so she didn’t know life without Rosie. But how do you help your child deal with the loss of their pet? Obviously each child is unique and as the parents we have to judge what our children can cope with based on their age.

Talk about what ‘dying’ means

Be honest in simple language. Talk about the cycle of life but try to stay away from terms such as ‘h/she went to sleep and won’t wake up’. This could frighten the child that they may not wake up if they go to sleep and cause sleep problems.

Tell their teacher

Rosie passed away in the evening and I emailed her teacher so she was aware. Bee did have some moments at school where she was in tears and the teachers were able to comfort her and talk to her about it.

Be gentle and let them take their time to grieve

Let the children take the lead with their grief. Allow them to cry, allow them to be silent. Allow them to have a tantrum – it is all part of the grieving process.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings

If your child has gone quiet it may be helpful to try to get them to open up and express how they are feeling. Don’t stop them talking about their memories of their pet even if you yourself may be finding it painful. Look back on the good memories you have with your pet. If talking is hard maybe writing down their feelings will help or even some form of art.

Have a ‘goodbye’ ceremony

We are planning a little area in the garden where we will be planting a ‘Rosie’ hebe in her memory and will place a rock with her name so that she will always be a part of the garden she loved so much. It will be an area where the children can sit and reflect on the special times they had with her.

Professional Help

If your child is finding it particularly hard then there are support lines available so you may want to consider seeking a professional trained in grief counselling to help your child deal with their grief.

I am still learning on how to help your child deal with the loss of a pet. Do you have any suggestions?

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