Mom, “is it true that animals go to heaven?” It is a question that many children ask about the loss of their pet.Whatever the animal in question, the death of a pet brings pain to children. How can you help your child to overcome the death of his playmate? In Vida y Salud we tell you more about how to overcome the death of a pet.
A pet is a life and play companion. It has even been proven that having pets is good for health: depression is less frequent in those who have an animal as a companion. In childhood, in particular, having a dog, cat or other animal is excellent for the emotional development of children. Therefore, many parents decide to give their children a pet, since they know it is a relationship that can bring many joys to their lives.
Luis, arrived every day from his school and was received by Topacio, his labrador dog. He moved his tail, jumped for joy and followed him wherever Luis went. It was his unconditional company. And it’s obvious. Since Luis was 3 years old, Topacio came into his life. Now, that Luis is eight years old, he found the bad news one day he arrived from school: Topacio had died.
Millions of children and adults have pets in the world. While cats and dogs are the most common pets, there are others such as birds, fish, rabbits, etc. Whatever the case, pets become a companion and friend who is considered a member of the family. These animals are the ideal company for when you want to play or simply, for when you want to be silent.
It is important to understand that like any living being, pets also die. And when this happens, the emotional impact on children is great. It is important that you talk to your child about this possibility, so he or she is prepared.
Explain that, like humans, pets can die from illness, accident or old age. Sometimes, when pets get sick and you take them to the vet, they may tell you there is nothing to do. Many people make the decision to stop the suffering of the animal, because it can not be cured. Then they give him an injection so that he dies or as it is commonly said “they put him to sleep”. In this way, the animal dies without pain, without suffering. Of course, and it is understood that this is a difficult decision to make. Each family will decide what is the best way to proceed.
When a pet dies, children can go through several phases: at first, they may not feel anything because they have not assimilated the news or deny it. Sometimes, your friends can say “well, you can buy another dog / cat” and this brings temporary relief, although many children do not accept another animal in the same way because they know it will not be like before. Then, it is normal that sadness and other emotions come like the following:
- Guilt: Children may feel that it is somehow their fault that the pet has died because they did not care enough. It is not good to feel this, since it is not realistic and brings much more pain. Talk to your child about it so he does not feel guilty.
- Anger: depending on the cause of death of the pet, the anger is felt towards the disease that killed her, the car that ran over her, the veterinarian who could not save her. It is normal to feel anger, but it is important to overcome it to be able to cure the pain for the death of your pet.
- Depression: the sadness of loss makes depression possible. But it is necessary that you help your child to overcome the pain by talking to him or her about their feelings and about the importance of accepting death as part of the cycle of life.
How can you help your child to overcome the loss of their pet?
- Talk to him and listen to him: if your child has doubts about what the death of the pet means, you as a father or mother will be the best judge when deciding how to explain what death means. It is important that you do not underestimate it and rather take advantage of the opportunity to speak honestly about life and death. Maybe he or she has misconceptions about the death of your pet, and this is the opportunity to clarify them.
- Be careful with the language you choose to explain what happened. If you tell the cat or dog “put him to sleep,” make sure your child understands the difference between sleeping and dying. It is not advisable to tell him that the pet “left” since the children can imagine that their pet is somewhere else and that he can soon return. In addition you can create anguish and uncertainty the fact that they do not know where it is. Talk to him clearly and explain that the pet is not going to return, but that he is happier now and free of any pain.
- Give him time to live his grief . If you see him cry, console him, but do not tell him not to. Crying is part of the process of accepting punishment.
- Over time, ask if you are ready to have a new pet . Explain that this new animal is not going to replace the one that died, but that it is a new life that comes to keep everyone company in the house.
Family support is essential to help children overcome the death of an animal. When Luis lost his dog Topacio, he had a lot of help from his parents and friends. Remember that anyone who has had pets and loves animals, will understand how hard it is to accept the death of a pet.