Helping children cope with the death of a pet
Mary lived a wonderful life. She was Stephanie’s shadow. Mary was never left alone. She went to work with Stephanie everyday and was loved by all that knew her. She was always a happy dog with a smile on her face. Then the grand mal seizure happened. Decisions needed to be made and for a host of reasons the decision to euthanize was chosen. The date and time were planned around family members who lived distances away but all wanted to be present.
When young children are part of a family the question often arises, “Should my kids be present?” The answer is not an easy one. Many factors have to be taken into consideration. What are the ages of the children? What is their emotional age? Have they experienced a death ( family member or pet) before? Do they understand why the decision is being made? Are they in agreement about the decision or are they voicing disapproval. A parents first instinct is to protect their child from death. Parents often want to orchestrate the euthanasia while the child is in school or with a friend or family member away from the house. How can we best nurture their mental well being in this emotional situation? I believe that shielding them from this life experience is not always a good idea. I believe children should be brought into the equation. They should be told what is going to happen and be given the opportunity to decide whether they do or do not want to be present. When children are told by their parents they can’t be present, I believe children imagine the passing to be more horrific than it actually is.
By taking the time to talk to the children and explain the details of what they will witness we can hold their hands and walk them through one of life’s toughest passages. It is sad. We all might cry. But when we hug each other, snuggle our pet through the process, whisper words of comfort, we are providing children the tools to help them cope with a significant life event.
Mary was surrounded by her human mom Stephanie, Stephanie’s two adult children and their spouses and six grandchildren under the age of six. The parents did a wonderful job explaining to the children what was about to happen. I gave Mary a tranquilizer and we all snuggled around her on the kitchen floor while waiting for the tranquilizer to take its full effect. The kids took turns giving Mary her favorite food treats. She was reveling in the love and hand pets and food. Mary gently relaxed into a state of unconsciousness and a second injection was given to help her cross the rainbow bridge. We were able to provide Mary a peaceful passing surrounded by the people who meant the most to her. I shared a candle with each child and told them about the “Monday Night Pet Candle Lighting”. Mary will forever be in all our hearts.