Pets are awesome. From goldfish to guinea pigs, from rats to rottweilers, we’ve been keeping furry friends for companionship and love since time immemorial. Everyone remembers their first childhood pet and the fierce devotion to them we had. We all reflect, even in our adult years on the fond memories we have of walking them, feeding them and, if you owned a cat, the worried looks we got from teachers where our feline friends’ “affections” left us criss crossed with scratches. But while our pets and our relationships with them hold great meaning for us, they also add meaning to our relationship with others. We all remember the first pet we got with a boyfriend or girlfriend and even if the relationship didn’t end well, it never colors our remembrance of our furry (or feathery or scaly) friends.
When we have kids of our own, many of us view the adoption of a pet as part of the parenting journey. After all, a pet can not only strengthen the bond we have with our kids, it can teach them responsibility, respect, and compassion while also teaching them how to cope with loss. The loss of a pet can be devastating for us and for our kids. Nonetheless it’s as inevitable and necessary a heartbreak as splitting up with their first girlfriend or boyfriend. Here are some ways to ease the process for the whole family.
It’s okay to grieve
Our pets may not be able to walk around on two legs or form sentences, but they are undeniably a member of the family. It’s always frustrating when someone doesn’t get the scope of the loss when we lose a pet. Thus, while your kids may feel the need to stay strong through the loss of a pet, they should be encouraged to grieve and reminded that their grief is legitimate.
Find an appropriate memorial
We want to insulate our kids from all manner of negative emotions, but nonetheless, we should help them through the grieving process as it is a necessary life lesson. We shouldn’t encourage our kids to grieve for a limited time then move on, but that there are many different ways to cope with loss. Thus, a memorial like a set of personalized garden stones in the back yard may be a nice memorial. This will hopefully give them happy memories of their playful pal every time they see it. Speaking of which…
Don’t be afraid to remember the good times
Our first instinct may be to hold off on discussing our much missed pets in front of our kids as these will provoke tears. But don’t be afraid to share happy memories. Sure there may be some tears mixed in with the smiles, but this is all part of a healthy grieving process.
Hang fire before replacing your pet
The loss of a pet can leave a pet shaped hole in our lives that our first instinct may be to fill. While it’s not necessarily a bad idea, it’s important to remember that your new pet will be a completely different animal than the old one, and that considering them interchangeable may lead to negative feelings towards the new pet even though they have done nothing wrong. It’s usually a good idea to let some time pass before adopting a new furry friend.