Today is a sad day.

Over the weekend our lovely dog Barney became very ill and we knew the end was coming for him. He was 18 years so a great age in dog years – we have had so many happy times with him. He is the same age as my daughter who turned 18 a couple of weeks ago so we have treasured memories. The wonderful long walks we went on with him and the funny time we left a cooked chicken on the sideboard while I went to answer the door and when I came back we couldn’t find it but Barney was licking his lips and smiling !

He had such a wonderful temperament and was so loyal and faithful so I shall truly miss him for many years to come as he was part of the fabric of my family life.

For many children their first real experience with loss happens when a pet dies.

When a well loved pet dies, children need consolation, love, support and affection more than complicated medical explanations. They need to have their feelings understood and validated.

Their reactions will depend on their age and stage of maturity but it isn’t until the age of 9 years that children fully understand that death is permanent and final.

There are many ways you can tell your child that a pet has died from using a soothing voice or finding a comfortable and familiar place to tell them but the most important thing is to be honest. Trying to protect them with vague and inaccurate explanations can create more anxiety, confusion and mistrust.

Children often have questions like: Why did my pet die? Is it my fault? Where does my pet’s body go to? Will I ever see my pet again? If I wish hard enough and am really good can I make my pet come back? Does death last forever?

It is important to answer such questions simply, but honestly. Your child may experience sadness, anger, fear, denial, and guilt when their pet dies or they may suddenly become jealous of friends who have pets.

Let your child know it’s perfectly normal to miss their pet after they die and encourage them to come to you with questions or for reassurance and comfort whenever they feel sad or overwhelmed.

Read more …. Mourning pets.