Not only will it be a devastating time for the whole family, but it may also spark other questions regarding mortality and what happens when we die.
There are many ways you can prepare your child for the inevitable death of an ill or senior pet. An unexpected death can be incredibly difficult for everyone, particularly children.
Find support knowing you're not the only one dealing with this tough period of adjustment. We're here to support you and your family in the days and weeks following your loss. Take a look below to find out how to tell a child about the death of a pet, as well as handy grief fact sheets and other useful resources.
Children are very receptive. Even the youngest of children are aware of insincerity. It may be tempting to tell a child that their companion has ‘run away’ or ‘visiting a friend’, but it’s important that they know what has really happened. Explain in simple language what has happened to their beloved pet. If their furry friend was unwell for a while, you can tell them that their pet is no longer suffering and is now at peace.
In a similar vein to the above, you should avoid euphemisms when telling a child about the death of their precious pet. Phrases such as “passed away” or “put to sleep” can be confusing for children. Of course, you should be sensitive about your delivery of the bad news, but always use words that are true to what has happened.
If you’re still not sure of what to say, take a look at the below example.
“As you know, Fido has been sick for some time. Today, we took Fido to the clinic and the vet decided that he was in a lot of pain. Fido’s pain was getting much worse every day. The vet helped Fido die peacefully today. He felt nothing and he is now at peace.”
Don’t underestimate the feelings your child has at this time. They may benefit from playing a part in their cremation. Explain to them how the cremation works and what you are planning to do with the ashes. A child may even want to write a few words to read at the scattering to honour their loyal companion.
If you’re in need of some inspiration for a memorial, take a look at our eulogy and poems page .
Even if they don’t want to read anything at the scattering or burial, they may still benefit from writing down their thoughts. Research shows that journaling is a highly effective way of processing our inner thoughts and feeling.
We can’t always predict when a pet is going to die, particularly when it comes as a result of an accident or sudden illness. However, many pets suffer from illnesses for long periods before their death. If you expect to your furry friend has little time left, start to tell your child what to expect.
Getting another pet might seem like a quick fix to cheer up your grieving child. However, every member of the family will need to take their own time to grieve the loss of their beloved pet. Take the time to remember your pet, celebrate their life and spend some time together as a family.
For more tips on when to know whether it’s time to get another pet, take a look at our complete guide.
There is an infinite number of questions your child may ask in the wake of a pet’s death. Below are some commonly asked questions along with advice for answering their queries in a simple and sensitive way without ambiguity.
The subject of death is a difficult but inevitable one for any parent to tackle. This may be your child's first experience of death. As a result, they might not understand the gravity and permanence of mortality. Be sure to answer their question using simple language that they understand. You don’t need to go into visual detail with regards to their cause of death, it is sufficient for them to know that they were sick or involved in an accident.
The loss of a pet may spark other questions regarding mortality, particularly surrounding a child’s loved ones. Reassure your child that although we all die, there is no reason to worry and their close family are happy and healthy.
If your much-loved pet is euthanised at the vet, a child may struggle to come to terms with why their friend was there in the morning and not in the afternoon.Explain euthanasia to a child by explaining that their loyal companion was in a lot of pain and now they are at rest.
If you’re in need of some extra support in the days and weeks following your pet’s death, take a look at these handy guides written by leading figure in grief and empathy education and author of When Pets Die: It's Alright to Grieve, Doris Zagdanski.
Whether it's a dog, cat or small pet, every pet has an important place in the family. The weeks and months following the death of your pet won't be easy. Keep reading to find out the answer to some questions you may have, including when is the right time to get another pet? And do other pets grieve?
If you’ve got any questions about pet cremation, choosing an urn or vet support, take a look at our FAQs to find the answer.