January 17, 2010,
T.C. asks from Lubbock, TX on January 14, 2010
I Need Help Fast ,Death of a Family Pet,what to Tell the Child
ok , is it a good idea for a 5 year old to witness the pet being buried in the back yard in the ground or say what? this was an accident she was very close to her poodle and was an inside one too , and died outside , i think i can explain the accident brifly not giving any goory detail but what then no body,what will the child think if about her dog buried in the dirt seeing daily? or would it be in the best intrest to this child to be told the vet came and try to help and took him to where all dogs go to heaven, this might sound corny as im at a lose and dont want to lie or traumatize her even more and only have a couple hours to figure this out before picking her up from school
So What Happened?™
im not sure i live in the country i believe if a car had hit him there would have been more damage, its possible he got kicked by one of the horses,bit by a snake, another animal im riddled with guilt he was an inside dog
C.B. answers from Dallas on January 15, 2010
Humans handle grief and loss in different ways - there is no right or wrong. I think a 5-yr old will understand the circle of life; time to break out Lion King.
D.W. answers from Indianapolis on January 14, 2010
I'm a big believer in honesty. I don't think you need to include the brutal details of the dog's death, but I do think it's good to be honest and explain that the family's pet has died, their spirit has gone one place, and the body needs to be put in another place.
5 year olds are pretty smart and know a lot more than we think we do.
We have 2 family pets, and if I were in the situation, I'd be honest that the pet had unexpectedly died. I'd even likely give my kids the option of choosing if they'd like to make a memorial in the backyard (though I don't think our neighborhood HOA would allow it) or if they'd like the vet to do it for you.
Good luck! We'll be there with you one day soon, and I hope I can follow my own advice.
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A.H. answers from Dallas on January 14, 2010
Im so sorry for your loss :( I probably wouldn't let her watch the poodle be buried, she is to young to understand....It may make things worse or frighten her.....I would be honest about the dog going to heaven, and I believe there are some good books about doggie heaven for kids. Have you thought about cremating the dog? You could keep the ashes then when she is a little bit older maybe go to a favorite place of the dogs and spread the ashes with her? Again im very sorry.
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V.A. answers from Dallas on January 15, 2010
gentle honesty..Your future credibility is on the line here.You need to let the child know that no matter how bad it gets, you will always be honest.
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M.K. answers from Houston on January 14, 2010
tell her what happened - leave out gory details - the dog died of old age, or it was ill or whatever, dont let her witness the burial, just put a little cross on the grave and say a prayer - thats what we did when our dog died on the 1st january, my son is fine with it.
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I.B. answers from Dallas on January 17, 2010
I'd suggest keeping things very simple and somber. Tell the child that there was an accident and that the dog died - and went to heaven. Lots of times there is not 'body' to see when a loved one dies. Have a little memorial ceremony with the family, perhaps each one saying something they remember about the dog, have a picture of the dog put in a nice frame, say a little prayer, put the picture on the mantle or in the child's room (as the child wishes).
You can expect the child (and you too, maybe) to have "waves" of grief that may seem to flow over the child's heart (and body - sometimes it feels physical also). Encourage the child to say so when he/she feels sad and acknowledge it. Things should heal with time.
S.P. answers from Dallas on January 15, 2010
Definately explain what you think happened. Let your child see the pet and see it being buried. I grew up in the country and witnessed quite a few animals that died or were killed etc. From the family dog-to cats, to baby calves and even baby goats that just didn't make it. We even buried goldfish. I'm extremely tender-hearted and a major animal-lover and I am thankful for those experiences because it taught me how to accept death but also that it was a natural occurance no matter how the creature met it's demise. My mother often struggled with her grief in front of us-sometimes we sobbed together (as in the instance of the family dog or the baby bird I raised that my cat then later caught after it'd been turned loose)-but I always knew I could count on getting the truth. Then I was able to verify the pet was gone-see it for myself to accept it and have the closure of seeing it buried. By the time I had to attend a funeral of a family member I was well prepared for what to expect and able to handle the grief. Now as a mother of two little girls-ages 4 and 7, I never try to gloss over such difficult experiences. It's way rough to let our children hurt but it is a HUGE teaching tool at the same time. I am SO glad I have allowed my children to deal with the few pets we have lost now. We had a Giant Flemish Rabbit that was the absolute sweetest thing and we all adored him. He was enormous and we had a matching gigantic hutch for him. During the summer I would douse him with cool water and set him up with every cooling trick I knew of but the heat killed him anyway much to my extreme horror. When I broke the difficult new to our children (who were both a year younger than they are now) they began to cry softly but both immediately asked to see him. My husband thought that was a very bad idea but I remembered my own childhood experiences. Our rabbit was not gory at least and I do no recall having seen anything that WAS and that's the difference in wether or not you allow your child to see. So, against my husband's wishes, I let the girls go out with me to see our poor, dear and very dead rabbit. They were very quiet but also very curious. I was ok until they both gently petted him and told him they were sorry and good bye. I began to weep then too.
Living where we do-burying is not an option and it's very hard for me to simply place the beloved pet in a box-seal it and put it in our waste bin for trash pick-up but that is what we do. Without being able to say good bye or see the body I don't think it would be real enough for my children- especially since there is no spot they could go to to "visit" their memories. Which is what I did as a child. Instead-I help them remember the good things about our pets and I honestly answer all their questions when they forget the end.
Death is never easy. I was glad I responded in this way when their great-grandmother died. My girls were not scared or confused at her funeral. They were very quiet and respectful and they asked me a few deep questions whispered into my ear. I was so glad they knew they could come to me and that I would give them the answers they needed. I hope we never have another funeral to attend but that is something everyone has to deal with throughout their lifetime. Isn't it better to be prepared?
I am very sorry for your loss of your poodle. I still cry with every loss (except fish). I cry more over my children's tears with such losses as well.
L.M. answers from Dallas on January 15, 2010
We recently had a dog pass who had gotten pneumonia. Our six year old knew the dog was sick. We buried her in the backyard before she got home from school. She wanted to see the grave, asked very morbid questions (which is perfectly normal as they try to understand what is happening). Don't be surprised to hear questions like "Can you dig her up and I see her" or "Will I see her when I die". This is normal as they process. Don't lie, don't cover it up, building trust and honesty starts young. As much as we would wish to sugar coat things, animals and people will pass. You don't want her thinking that everytime a pet goes to the vet that it will die.
She will cry, be upset, and it will take a while. Do not get a new pet for her while she is grieving. Give it a few months if you need to get a new pet.
V.C. answers from Dallas on January 14, 2010
I agree about the honesty. But, is this the first time your daughter has any experience of death? If so, be prepared for questions about her own mortality. I had planned to talk to my son about it when he was about 5. But he saw a picture at 3 of a skull and in trying to explain what it was to him he suddenly realized that he would someday die. That totally caught me off guard.
So sorry for your loss.