Grief Within the Family
Pets are often considered members of the family. Each member of the family
has their own special unique relationship with their pet.
When it is time to face a difficult decision or following the loss of pet
family members may respond differently to the loss depending on their
relationship with the pet as well as the way in which they experience
grief.. Sometimes this can lead to conflict and tension in the family.
When your family has undergone the loss of a pet it is important to
understand that everyone handles it differently. See
Supporting People Through Grief.
Everyone needs to respect each other
during this difficult time.
The death of a pet is difficult for every one in the family. It can be
especially difficult on children. Children often form a very special bond
with the family pet. The family pet is often a fun playmate, a source of
comfort, and an uncritical friend for your child. All children, like
adults, have different relationships with the pet. For many children the
pet was his/her best friend and represented unconditional love. Many
factors determine how a child will respond to the loss of a pet: their age,
life experiences, attachment to the pet, circumstances surrounding the
death, experience with death, and support available to the child. Be aware
of what events have occurred recently in your family that may add to the
grief for your child (recent divorce, additional death, troubles at school
etc.). Some of these factors can compound the grief your child is feeling
and may cause old issues to resurface.
For many children this may be their first experience with death. Children
may not understand what exactly death is. It is important to talk with your
child. They may be confused about what they are feeling or how they should
feel. They also may look to you in how to act with the loss. Pay attention
to your child and the signs they display. It is normal for them to feel
depressed, withdrawn, and or angry, just as adults do. See the
When talking with your child make sure you answer their questions. Listen
to your child and reassure them that you are there to help them, love them,
and are experiencing grief as well. Your child may need you to hear you
repeat information and reassurances several times. Be patient. Provide
comfort. Recognize and appreciate the special bond your child had with the
pet and do not trivialize the child’s grief for the deceased pet. If your
child knows the veterinarian talking with the vet may be beneficial.
Remember everyone handles grieving differently. For your child it is
important they feel you are supporting them in their grieving process.
Being a supportive parent is the best thing you can do for your child during
this difficult time. If you are at all concerned about your child’s
behavior or are having difficulty helping your child a grief counselor that
understands the importance of pet loss may be helpful for both you and your
We at the Pet loss Hotline are here to help. If you wish to talk to one of
our trained volunteers please do not hesitate to call or email. We would be
more than happy to provide you with any assistance we can.
See Helping Children Cope with Grief
for some ideas
for helping provide support and allow your child to express him/herself
through the grief of the loss of a pet.