Guest Blogger, Brooke Chaplan
Childhood is a wonderful time when it often seems as though nothing could go wrong. Unfortunately, children often lose their loved ones and pets, and the first death that they experience can be heart-wrenching. For a young child, it might not make sense that someone could be there one day and then be gone the next. They may also struggle as they work through the different stages of grief. After a loss, be sure to review this information that will help your child make it through the grieving process.
Be Willing to Show Your Sadness
Parents sometimes try to put on a strong face to help their child feel more secure. Yet, your child needs to know that it is okay to be sad. Although you don’t want to overdo it, be willing to shed a tear or express your sadness verbally. Your child will learn that their emotions are normal, and they’ll see you as someone who understands their sorrow. It may be good to read books about familial loss for children or how to deal with the loss of a pet with your child. Respect your child’s maturity as well as their youth, and let them express emotion with you.
Establish a Physical Place for Remembrance
For young children, a loss can sometimes make it feel like the person or pet was never there. Having something tangible to hold on to or a place to visit helps them accept the loss. For instance, using a pet urn to create a memorial for your child’s favorite animal gives them a physical place where they can go to remember the special moments that they had with their pet.
Involve Them in the Memorial Planning
Learning how to deal with the loss of a pet is also easier when your child feels a sense of control over what happens next. Ask your child if they would like to pick out a song or a few words to share during your family’s ceremony. Some children may want to put a picture next to an urn, or they may prefer to pick out where it is placed. By involving them in the process, they will be able to understand that while the situation is sad, it is also natural in a way.
Let Them Know They Can Ask Questions
Conversations about loss should always go both ways. Let your child know that they can ask you questions, and be ready with a few answers about things such as where you believe people and animals go when they die. It is also okay to let your child know that you need to think about a question. Just make sure to follow up with an answer later.
Watch for New Emotions as Time Passes
The grieving process can span more than a few weeks. Kids will often come up with new questions, or they may regress to a former state of sorrow. Keep an eye on your kid’s behavior and initiate a new conversation about the loss if they seem to be struggling again. But also be willing to give them space when necessary. Your child will have to come to terms with the loss with your help and on their own.
At some point, most children must learn how to cope with loss. Whether your child lost a grandparent or a pet, remember that your guidance is what they need most during this process. Let your child know that you are always available to talk about their feelings, and respond to their concerns with compassion. While they may not be able to replace their pet or loved one, they will eventually learn to accept the loss and hold their good memories close to their heart.
Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most of her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information, contact Brooke via Facebook at facebook.com/brooke.chaplan or Twitter @BrookeChaplan.