Tag Archives: Children

Pet Loss: Should I Include My Children?

Processing Pet Loss with Children

Pet Loss Article by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

Flickr - BobDentz

Flickr – BobDentz

I’ve lost count of the number of homes I enter for a home euthanasia appointment to find one person, sitting on the floor with their pet. The homes are filled with photos and toys, indications of a lively family, but at this time, they are alone.

“I sent the kids away with my spouse,” they say. “I didn’t want them to see this.”

I nod in understanding. After all, I’ve done the same thing. It is very hard to know how to broach the topic of pet loss with children, especially when the process is such an unknown for the parents as well. But over time, I’ve come to realize it doesn’t have to be this way.

The parents who elect to keep their children at home share an incredible experience with the kids, one with tears but also with great beauty. The children learn many things when they are home for a euthanasia:

    • Death is sad, and it’s all right to cry
    • It is a time to acknowledge a wonderful shared life
    • Death can be a very peaceful process surrounded by love

Many times, the parents are as comforted by the children as the children are the parents, and for some surprised parents this, too, is a revelation. The family experiences the loss as a unit.

I certainly don’t mean this to say that all families should have their children home for the death of a pet; it depends on so many circumstances, such as the ages of the children, their maturity levels, and the family’s previous experiences with loss. If children are frightened and do not want to be there, I don’t encourage forcing them to be a part of it. What I do encourage, and I’ve learned this the hard way from personal experience, is honest, open dialogue, and respect for their feelings on the topic. When there is a good deal of anxiety or fear, the assistance of a licensed therapy professional before or after the fact can be invaluable.

Processing Grief Through Art

Whether or not children are present for the passing of a pet, allowing them to express their feelings is a key part of the grieving process. Creating a memorial is a wonderful way for them to acknowledge the love they shared. I encourage kids to write letters, poems, and draw pictures to share at a family memorial service, or plant a tree, or run a donation drive for a shelter.

One of the best ways for children (and adults!) to work through their feelings is through art. The creative process is a wonderful outlet for people experiencing grief, and many parents find it is helpful to have a way to direct their child’s emotions into a guided project, particularly when the parents are also working through their own grief.

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang - Pet Loss ExpertJessica Vogelsang, DVM is an author, veterinarian, and owner of the award winning pet-centric website pawcurious.com. Dr. Vogelsang is a regular contributor to multiple online publications on topics related to pet health and the human-animal bond. Dr. Vogelsang is currently practicing as a hospice care specialist with Paws into Grace in San Diego, and has a special interest in helping loving pet owners through the difficult end of life stage.

Pet Loss Grief Books For Children

Pet Loss Books for Children

Pet loss article by Dr. Wendy Khentigan

Children do not respond to death in the same way as adults. The reaction of a child is typically more natural and curious until it is influenced by adults. The death of a family pet is often the first death experienced by a child. How this is handled will influence the child for the rest of his or her life. Children naturally develop strong attachments to a family pet and may relate to a pet as a sibling, playmate or special confidant. Children need guidance and support to understand their loss and to mourn that loss.

Pet Loss Grief Books for Children

Memories of You - Pet Memory BookMemories of You : Pet Memory Book (Helping Kids Heal Series) by Eraiinna Winnett and Lucia Martinez (2014)

This is for kids ages 6 to 12 with lots of exercises that will help a child talk about their feelings. A useful tool for parents to start discussion with their kids about the loss of their pet. Get the book.




When a Pet Dies by Mister RogersWhen A Pet Dies by Fred Rogers (1998)

Beloved childhood figure Mr. Rogers helps the very young understand the death of their pet. An important first book to help explain death to a child. Get the book.





Pet Loss and ChildrenPet Loss and Children: Establishing a Healthy Foundation by Cheri Barton Ross (2005)

Great resource for parents to understand how children experience grief and loss. Get the book.





When Shiner DiedWhen Shiner Died: A Children’s Book About Pet Loss by Rebecca Hauder (2010)

This is a moving book both for children as well as adults. Best read with Kleenex in hand. Get the book.



Fragile Tears - Children's Pet Loss BookFragile Tears: Stories and Guidance For Youth by Alan Blain Cunningham Ph.D., D.V.M.,M.D. (2005)

A heartwarming book with many personal stories. Sure to bring tears and comfort to animal lovers of all ages. Get the book.





Dr. Wendy Khentigan - Pet Loss ExpertWendy A. Khentigan, M.D. graduated from New York Medical College. She completed her residency in psychiatry at the University of California San Diego where she served as a chief resident during her final year. She is board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. She has completed her certification in Intensive Short Term Dynamic Psychotherapy, a technique particularly effective in addressing grief as well as trauma. She has been in private practice in Encinitas since 1994. A lifelong animal lover, she has a special interest in animal welfare and the people who care for animals.