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Grief In Children – The Honest Truth

3 Minute Read
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit
By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Healthcare  |  Dec 2019

Grief In Children – The Honest Truth

3 Minute Read
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit
By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Healthcare  |  Dec 2019
Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

By Dr. Karie Johnson  |  Dec 2019

ALLOW THEM TO BE INVOLVED

Death is a natural part of life. Many experts agree that children should be involved in the conversations regarding a family pet’s health, treatment, quality of life, and euthanasia. These tough conversations provide children with lessons about compassion, commitment and coping. Follow your child’s lead when it comes to these difficult discussions, especially when dealing with pet loss and grief.

BE HONEST

Allow your child to ask questions and answer them at a level appropriate for their age, Allowing them to ask questions and be involved can reduce their anxieties or fears regarding the situation at hand. Always be honest with them and allow them to decide if they want to be included in the euthanasia process or not.

AGE APPROPRIATE GRIEF

Infants and toddlers grieve in their own way, especially when it is someone close to them that has died. They need to be shown more comfort and love during this time.

Children 3-5 years of age don’t fully grasp that death is final. They don’t understand that your pet is never coming back. Give them simple, direct answers to their questions.

Children 5-8 years of age understand death but can’t grasp it occurring to them in their own lives and how it will feel. They may feel angry, but allow them to express their emotions freely.

Children 9-12 years of age understand death more concretely. They may have lots of questions about death. Give them time to discuss and ask questions as they may not be as willing to share their feelings.

Teenagers 13-16 are at the age where they may try to hide their grief from you. Be extremely open with them and respect their opinions and suggestions. Ask them to talk about their feelings with you as they may not be open to sharing.

YOUR GRIEF AFFECTS THEM

Make sure you show your emotions and respect their need to share their feelings. For younger children, make sure they know that you are sad because of your pet’s deteriorating health or death so they don’t worry that they caused your sadness in some way.  Respect everyone’s feelings and way of grieving. Not every adult in the household may act the same when it comes to grief. Make sure to explain the different ways people can grieve to your children.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?

Let other’s know what is going on in your child’s life. This may include teachers, coaches and parents of their friends. They may lend a helping hand or let you in on how your child grieves outside of the house. Allow your children to express grief in their own productive way. Continue to be supportive and patient, and try your best to keep the household routine as normal as possible.

For additional support, please see our article, Pet Loss Resources, where you can find many book recommendations for children experiencing pet loss, as well as pet loss websites and free pet loss helplines. You can also visit our End Of Life Pet Care page for other educational articles, tools, services and resources. 

Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

Author: Dr. Karie Johnson, Co-Founder of VIP Vet Visit

Dr Karie is a companion animal & equine veterinarian in the Chicagoland area. Her desire to strengthen the human-animal bond while providing enhanced preventative care led her to start VIP Vet Visit – an at-home veterinary care option that provides less stress, more convenience and better care. 

ALLOW THEM TO BE INVOLVED

Death is a natural part of life. Many experts agree that children should be involved in the conversations regarding a family pet’s health, treatment, quality of life, and euthanasia. These tough conversations provide children with lessons about compassion, commitment and coping. Follow your child’s lead when it comes to these difficult discussions, especially when dealing with pet loss and grief.

BE HONEST

Allow your child to ask questions and answer them at a level appropriate for their age, Allowing them to ask questions and be involved can reduce their anxieties or fears regarding the situation at hand. Always be honest with them and allow them to decide if they want to be included in the euthanasia process or not.

AGE APPROPRIATE GRIEF

Infants and toddlers grieve in their own way, especially when it is someone close to them that has died. They need to be shown more comfort and love during this time.

Children 3-5 years of age don’t fully grasp that death is final. They don’t understand that your pet is never coming back. Give them simple, direct answers to their questions.

Children 5-8 years of age understand death but can’t grasp it occurring to them in their own lives and how it will feel. They may feel angry, but allow them to express their emotions freely.

Children 9-12 years of age understand death more concretely. They may have lots of questions about death. Give them time to discuss and ask questions as they may not be as willing to share their feelings.

Teenagers 13-16 are at the age where they may try to hide their grief from you. Be extremely open with them and respect their opinions and suggestions. Ask them to talk about their feelings with you as they may not be open to sharing.

YOUR GRIEF AFFECTS THEM

Make sure you show your emotions and respect their need to share their feelings. For younger children, make sure they know that you are sad because of your pet’s deteriorating health or death so they don’t worry that they caused your sadness in some way.  Respect everyone’s feelings and way of grieving. Not every adult in the household may act the same when it comes to grief. Make sure to explain the different ways people can grieve to your children.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?

Let other’s know what is going on in your child’s life. This may include teachers, coaches and parents of their friends. They may lend a helping hand or let you in on how your child grieves outside of the house. Allow your children to express grief in their own productive way. Continue to be supportive and patient, and try your best to keep the household routine as normal as possible.

For additional support, please see our article, Pet Loss Resources, where you can find many book recommendations for children experiencing pet loss, as well as pet loss websites and free pet loss helplines. You can also visit our End Of Life Pet Care page for other educational articles, tools, services and resources. 

Dr. Karie Anne Johnson Mobile Vet for VIP Vet Visit

Author: Dr. Karie Johnson, Co-Founder of VIP Vet Visit

Dr Karie is a companion animal & equine veterinarian in the Chicagoland area. Her desire to strengthen the human-animal bond while providing enhanced preventative care led her to start VIP Vet Visit – an at-home veterinary care option that provides less stress, more convenience and better care. 

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