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Pet Bereavement Counselling - What to say to a Child

One of the most complex situations is interacting with children regarding pet bereavement


As a pet bereavement counsellor, you are likely to be dealing with people from various age groups, and you need to treat each group differently, as you would do while dealing with different people. One of the most complex situations is interacting with children regarding pet bereavement, but if handled correctly, it could turn into and easy and enriching experience.

Here are a few pointers for dealing with a child regarding the loss of a pet:

  • First and foremost, there is nothing to be achieved in sheltering the child from the loss of the pet. In fact, it is likely that this would be the child's first direct contact with death, which could prove to be an important lesson in life.
  • Confront the kid on a one-to-one basis in an isolated location, free from distractions.
  • The age of the child is also very important. A very young child may need less information, but you need to give more details to an older child.
  • Never tell a very young child that the pet has just gone to sleep for a long time - this could result in anxiety for the child's own sleep, once it is evident that the pet has not come back.
  • You will be surprised at the resilience of children and their quest for information. Often, you will find that answering the child's questions help to clarify the situation to the child's satisfaction.
  • Stick to the truth. By telling the child that the pet ran away, or has gone on a trip, only paves the way for anger from the child, if the child finds out what really happened.
  • Making the child get over the initial shock and look forward should be the prime objective, once the child has been given the complete information.
  • Arranging for a ceremony, funeral, and memorial service is a way of comforting the child, who will feel that something is being done that they are being included in.
  • You can also write a poem or prayer together, and share funny stories about the pet's escapades. You could even start making a scrapbook together.

In conclusion, never underestimate the insightfulness of children. Sometimes they can be more astute and practical than adults. So, keep a dialogue going, and ensure that they are included in what is going on at home, related to the loss of the pet. You will find that you are able to provide as good counselling to the child, as you did to the adults in the family.

With best wishes

Kit Sadgrove

Blackford Centre for Pet Bereavement

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