We must accept that death is a part of life, but explaining it to children can be difficult.
As a parent I have often thought of how I would explain the topic of death and loss to my children. Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t have to explain anything– my kids just accepted that people and things eventually die. The loss of a pet was seen in movies or cartoons. But then, we had to say goodbye to our sweet golden retriever of 11 years. It was then that we had to have that discussion about loss.
My children are only 8 and 4 so they haven’t known and loved the dog for all eleven years, but he was still a big part of our everyday life. Our dog got sick with cancer and we had several weeks to say our goodbyes and spend some quality time making sure our sweet “Mr. Cid” enjoyed every moment of his final few weeks.
We explained to the kids that Cid was sick and that he would eventually die. We all shed some tears and waited. We eventually took him to the vet to be euthanized, and that was kind of that.
In preparation for our talk I looked up articles online about preparing children for the death of a pet and tips for dealing with their grief. I even found workbooks and coloring activities meant to help them work through their feelings. I was amazed at the volume of resources available. In the end though, we didn’t use that workbook of emotions or checklist of grief. All in all, I think we just kinda lucked out that the kids didn’t have a really hard time.
I don’t know that there’s some magical way to explain loss to a child, but I do think being honest and direct is very important. I also think preparing the girls for what was to come weeks in advance was a big help too. Funny how so much of parenting is just winging it– this was definitely one of those situations. I did learn through this experience that my kids are resilient and will bounce back from most anything. I also learned that after researching ways to help them cope, I did what my gut said and just told them the truth. I will always miss my sweet boy, but it was his time to go and be at peace.
Here’s to all our beloved pets we have known and loved.