The first step to helping children learn how to cope with the loss of a pet is to be honest with them. As difficult as this may feel, it’s important to tell them the truth. Stay away from half truths and euphemistic descriptions about death (e.g. “guinea pig is just sleeping right now”). This might make the child be fearful of sleeping because they think they will never wake up. Instead, sensitively explain to your child that his or her pet has died. A child’s understanding about death will vary based on his age.
The second step is to honor your child’s feelings. Help the child to express his or her grief. You can encourage the children to make drawings or write stories about their pet. It’s also very helpful to have them recall happy memories which allows them to both grieve and remember happier times with their pet.
Children may need to cry and express their feelings of loss, which is to be expected. They might also struggle with other complex emotions like anger, denial and guilt. Encourage your child to talk with you about his or her feelings. This will allow you to explain that what they are experiencing is normal and natural part of the grieving process. Ultimately, care providers want to help the children move through their feelings of depression and eventually come to a place of acceptance. One of the ways to encourage the child’s healthy acceptance of a pet’s death is to find a way to memorialize this passing. Having a burial, memorial or similar type of ceremony helps to reinforce the importance of the pet’s life while also marking its death.