9 Ways to Help a Child Grieve the Loss of a Pet
Losing a pet really hurts. Being a mom of grieving children can make it even worse. After the loss of our beloved pets, my children and I talked a lot. We shared stories. We cried, and we even laughed a little. We ended up having discussions about believing our pets were in a safe, happy place, and the communication helped bring forth healing. Our conversations about what we believed led to the creation of our pet loss cards. Talking about our ideas and how we would create our cards for others helped us through the grieving process together, as a family. While we think our cards are a great idea, and an opportunity to let your children know they are not at fault for their pet's death, or that they were the greatest buddies your pet could have asked for, we think there are a few other ideas that would possibly be helpful as well:
1. Pet Loss Jewelry
If you plan to or have already cremated your pet, an urn necklace can help a child feel like a part of their beloved pet is close to their heart when they wear it around there neck. Another idea is to hang it someplace special in their room or somewhere they will see it often such as a fort, a treehouse, or nightstand. Some necklaces have heartfelt messages engraved on them that can be comforting. There are so many options available out there. This pet urn necklace is one that we offer. It may help younger family members to keep a pet’s beloved memento with them, especially in the early days of a pet’s loss.
2. Frame a Photo
Let your little one pick a favorite photo of your pet. Shop together for a frame and tell your child to pick one that is special to them. Some frames include inspirational pet loss messages or poems. Let your child pick a special spot to place the picture and remember the good memories they had together. You can also make a photo frame together. Buy an unfinished wooden frame that your child can paint, stamp, or add stickers to customize to their liking. Another great idea for customizing a frame is to add paw prints or your pet's name.
3. Create a Scrapbook or Memory Box
If your family is anything like ours, we take a million pictures, and a lot of those pictures include our pets. They are members of the family after all. Most craft stores carry scrapbook supplies. Have your children help you pick out favorite pictures of their pet and go shopping together for special stickers or stamps. You could also create a memory box where you can include some memories about when you first got your pet, certain milestones, or funny stories. This is a great place to include keepsakes such as dog tags, collar, favorite toy, a lock of fur, or sympathy cards that your family may have received. There will probably be tears combined with laughter, but grieving together as a family can be comforting.
4. Plant a Tree or Seeds in Your Pet's Honor
Plant a small tree, bush, or seeds in memory of your pet. You can dedicate your tree or little garden to your pet by placing a memorial stone in the area. Include your child in regular tending of whatever you decide to plant. We think it's a nice idea to add your favorite flowers with each anniversary of your pet's passing.
5. Hold a ceremony
Hold a pet funeral or ceremony in honor of your pet. Whether you cremate your pet or intend on buying a casket, we suggest looking up a directory for local pet cremation services. A lot of them offer cremation services as well as other products that may fit your needs for a proper burial or ceremony. After we buried our little Butterscotch, my daughters picked dandelions to place on top of the ground. Butterscotch loved to munch on dandelions, so they thought this was appropriate.
6. Read a Book
Books can be a great resource for helping children through the grieving process after the loss of a pet. They can help explain that sadness and grief are normal, and that those feelings are shared by all of us at one point or another in life. I think it helps to know you are not the only one who has gone through such a tough time.
7. Make an ornament
You can make a memorial ornament in remembrance of your pet. It symbolizes the fact that even though your pet is no longer with you physically, they are always there in spirit and will always be a part of the family. It is also a reminder of the special times that your pet spent with your family during those holidays.
8. Volunteer Time
Volunteer together at an animal shelter or Humane Society. One of the best things you can do when you are feeling blue is to help another being in need. It doesn’t hurt to be able to cuddle up with some loving animals. If you spend enough time there, you might even really get to know and love one, and possibly even eventually consider bringing one home.
9. Name a Star After Your Pet
Name a star after your pet. Naming a star comes with a certificate confirming your star, which your child can frame and hang in their room. This can be paired with our postcard and a note from your beloved pet reminding your child to greet the star every night before going to bed.
These are just a few of many ideas to help your child grieve the loss of a pet. Your child may even come up with their own ideas, and I think the best thing to do is to let your child choose which activities or crafts would mean the most to them. If there is an idea or an experience that you have in mind or have done, please feel free to share in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you.