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Helping a Child with Grief over a Pet

When a pet dies, all members of the family feel the grief and will mourn. But, little humans often hurt even more than the big humans.

The death of one of us is often the first time a little human experiences death, and how parents and other big humans handle this grief is important and helps a little human to learn about loss.

Helping a Child with Grief over a Pet

Stages of Grief

Just as with any death, the stages of grief will be experienced. 

The stages of grief are called: disbelief/denial, anger, bargaining/magical thinking, depression, and acceptance.

Little humans will usually experience these stages more quickly than big people. 

Sometimes stages are even skipped.  And sometimes, “Buddy is dead. Can I have a cookie?” is how it goes on a daily basis. 

Tears, then distraction.  Tears. Then distraction. It’s also dependent on the age of the little human and their understanding of it.

Also, questions about the return of a dog friend can happen. 

Be sure your little human knows that their furry family member will not be alive again, that death is not catchy, and that it is okay to feel sad. 

It’s also okay to not feel sad and to love and enjoy their living pets.

Some things I’ve seen in helping a child with grief over a pet include:

  • A funeral and burial.
  • Dog urns are also one way to cherish the memories with your pets.
  • A memorial gift from parents like an ornament, simple piece of jewelry, or another item like a stuffed animal.
  • A grief card.
  • A nice picture with the pet hung some place important.

And, if the pet is terminally ill and euthanasia is planned, a proper goodbye may be essential. 

Ask your small human what he or she wants to do.  Some want to say goodbye and others do not. 

Oh, and don’t ever say that death is like sleeping or they may become fearful of taking a nap or letting you take a nap!

The stages of grief don’t go in a straight line for anyone. 

People and pets will experience different emotions at different times and will not go smoothly from one stage to the next. 

It’s a process, not a set of instructions, and it can be a messy process.

Most of all, be patient and loving to your small humans. 

Allow children to grieve as they need, or not at all. Every human has a unique set of feelings and needs.

Signs Your Dog is Grieving and How You Can Help - Miss Molly Says

Thursday 23rd of April 2020

[…] You may also like to read how to help a child with grief over a lost pet. […]

Shannon Holmes

Wednesday 12th of February 2020

Thanks for all of these great tips.


Thursday 7th of February 2019

This is a very tender way to write about such a difficult subject. I think the piece also offers some fresh insight into the subject of petloss and bereavement. I will be sharing this content with my own audience.

Mary Gardner

Tuesday 16th of October 2018

We have been dealing with this with our 7 year old twins for the last couple of months. They are adjusting but it has been hard loosing the pet they have had since the day they were born.

Shannon Pickin

Tuesday 9th of January 2018

Thank you for posting about this. We are dealing with this right now since our cat, Kiwi passed away on Jan. 3rd. My kids are older, but it still hit them hard. :(

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