How to Help Children Cope with the Loss of a Pet


Your first pet teaches you a lot about companionship, responsibility, and of course, being a loyal friend. During childhood, dogs and cats are some of our first friends, and usually we spend every day with them. Unfortunately, the day inevitably comes when they’re no longer with us. 

Losing your pet at any age is hard, but for many children, losing a pet is their first experience with grief and loss. This time can be confusing, devastating, and feel very lonely. Whether your pet’s passing was expected or unexpected, there are luckily some ways to help your family cope with the loss and come together. 

Children and a dog in Peru. Many kids have very important friendships with animals. Image credit Kim Bartlett – Animal People, Inc.

1. Be honest

Your children may have a lot of questions about their pet. Talking about death can be difficult, but honesty is the best way to create an open conversation. For kids old enough to comprehend it, use this time to explain how normal grieving is and how special your pet’s bond was. If your children are curious about what happened, explain a dog’s life expectancy and how health conditions may have made their life more difficult.

Girls and their kittens in Argentina. Don’t underestimate how important animals are and how difficult losing them can be for children. Image credit Lucretia Mors.

2. Take time to grieve

On the other hand, your kids may want to have time to themselves. They may become quiet and uninterested in normal activities. Be there for your children in whatever capacity they need you to be. While there’s no recommended length of time you should grieve, you should allow your kids to grieve as it comes. Losing your pet will be hard for everyone in your family, so it’s important to come together during the moments you feel down.

3. Celebrate your pet’s life

When you and your family reach a good place in the healing process, talk about ways you want to remember your pet. You may plant some flowers in the backyard or frame a picture of your pet and keep it in a special place in your home. You may even want to take a family walk around your pet’s normal route and talk about your favorite memories. However you decide to remember them, take time to be together and memorialize your special family member. 

Losing your pet isn’t easy, but when we welcome an animal into our family we sign up to be there for them until the end. It’s so hard to say goodbye, but the memories you share live on forever. 

Featured image: a child and a dog play on the beach. Losing a pet can be devastating for children, and it may be their first experience with grief and loss. Image credit Kim Bartlett – Animal People, Inc.

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About Author

Amanda Tallent is a content creator for Bestow who writes helpful and compelling stories for families. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and exploring Austin, TX with her Australian Shepherd, Ellie. Click to see author's profile.

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