Our Golden Labrador Angel was hit by a car and was put down recently. It was really, really sad. The grief physically hurt for a few days but thankfully has dissipated. Pets really do become part of the family don’t they. The kids were just devastated by the loss of another pet so soon - our cat sparkles died unexpectedly less than a year ago. They cried and cried which was the hardest part for me. Not being able to take their pain away. I know that as part of the grieving process they needed to go though that on their own terms, but was heartbreaking to watch.
Emma verbalised her distress about what would happen in the future when she needed ‘time out’ from the rest of the family (i.e.: was upset with one or all of us about ‘whatever’) - who would she go to take her mind off things and get some affection and unconditional love from? It was an insightful thing to think and not one that we can ‘fix’ –at least not immediately. The loss of a pet can’t be solved overnight by getting another pet straight away. Sometimes it’s just too painful and you need time to heal first. That’s certainly how we feel. Angel was 3 ½ - so we had finally gotten her through the crazy young Labrador stage to the more sensible stage, making it all the more hard to accept her untimely death.
Having pets and inevitably losing them at some point –hopefully later rather than sooner - is all part of growing up and learning about responsibility and of course change and death. I encouraged the kids to write down their thoughts and do some drawings about Angel and their favourite memories of her – and what might be on a head stone if we had a proper one – i.e. RIP and what the means etc. We discussed burying her together, which as hard as it is to do is an important part of the grieving process. We went through this with Sparkles as well, so this wasn’t completely foreign to them. When we buried the cat they asked about the ‘how will she breath under the ground’ type questions and we had similar questions again from our 7 year old son about Angel..which of course leads to the ‘soul’ having already left the body and being in heaven so it’s ok…. Can be a bit of a hard concept to explain but is a good opportunity to discuss it all the same.
When a pet dies it’s also a good idea to put together a min-book of memories and photos of your beloved pet. Angel did some crazy naughty things that we remember fondly (in retrospect!!) and they will be lovely to have to look back on. We just hope the next pets we have will be around for longer than our last two that’s all!
How have you dealt with the death of a family pet? How did you help your children deal with the grieving process? I would love to hear your thoughts.
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