7 Year Old Obsessed with Death of Pet

Updated on March 02, 2010
J.E. asks from Needville, TX
7 answers

Hi Moms!
I really need help with this one. My daughter is 7 and has become increasingly obsessed with death, mostly revolving around the death of a beloved pet, but has been branching out into fear about when it's going to happen, and what it's going to feel like, and how she doesn't want any of her family to die. I try to answer her questions and fears as honestly as I can, but it doesn't seem to be helping. The weird thing about all this is that the pet passed away over 4 1/2 years ago. While she'd mention Casey (the dog the passed on) every once in awhile, it usually was just a "I miss her!" and a couple of tears. Within the past few months, she's brought up Casey more and more until it's become a daily thing with huge tears and sobbing. Now she wants to find Casey's collar, make a memory box, draw pictures of her, etc. While I'm trying to be supportive through all this, I'm getting worn out over the daily hystrionics over something that happened over 4 1/2 years ago. I really have no idea what has prompted all this, and no idea how to help her deal with what has becoming an overwhelming grief. Any suggestions y'all have would be truly appreciated. Thanks, moms!

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answers from Chicago on

I think there really has to be something triggering this. Maybe she even saw something on the news or heard of a friend's family member being sick and dying? She is probably just projecting all these feelings toward the dog because it is the one thing she has lost. I would continue to talk to her and try to figure out what she is really worried about. Maybe even another close friend or school counselor could talk with her and get to the bottom of it? There has got to be a reason with her fixation on this and the sudden fears. Reassurance is good and also try to get some books from the library or bookstore that explains death (of pets and people) age appropriately. Try not to make this the whole day everyday thing though. Discuss her fears, but try and switch to something more positive when it seems that the hysterics are near. Some kids will just really work themselves up. Bottom line--Keep talking with her until you can find out who she is really scared of losing or what is worrying her and then you can address the real issue. I just don't think this is about a dog that passed when she was 2.5 years old. It can be tough to figure things out when they are this age. Are you sure there has been no sickness, divorce, loss of friends, changing of schools....etc to trigger this?Even a small change can affect a little one if they are more sensitive. Maybe they are talking about death at school....where did she get the idea of a memory box? I wish you the best--you'll figure out what is =)



answers from Houston on

A couple of ideas:

1. 7 is an age were death becomes a REAL concept and it is often at that age when kids start talking about and obsessing over "what if I died? What if Mom and Dad died? Who would take care of me?" The important thing is to honor her fears and feelings because if she doesn't get the reassurance that she needs she will get more and more anxious! It may be that someone she knows has experienced a recent death (someone in her class who had a grandparent or pet die) and that brought up all of her thoughts and the only thing where she could RELATE was when your dog died!

2. Are there other things happening in your home/life that could also be making her anxious and she is choosing to vent it this way?

3. Find and read to her some books on death (there are a lot of great kids books that talk about what it means to die). One I highly recommend is: It Must Hurt a Lot: A Book about Death and Learning and Growing.

4. If she continues with the obsession then it might be a good idea to have her talk to her school counselor (who is more tuned in to what is happening at school and this age group, etc.). If that person recommends professional counseling then seek it out! There are a lot of great, trained therapist out there - ask the school counselor for a recommendation!

Good luck to you both!



answers from Houston on

Dear Mom,

This is the hard part of life, but there are some solutions. First if you have a strong faith in God, I would start there. When I was a small girl my Dad told me about Kitty Heaven. It helped. You can rent the movie, "All dogs go to Heaven", Disney. This helps to explain where Casey went. Also on line, thiere is a web site called "Rainbow Bridge", where many people who are morning over they're lost pets go. You can even help her write her feelings on the website. It is always better for children to get there feeling out. And if she sees that other people lost there pets to she will not feel alone.

I am a adult who has lost pets and at times I still morn over pets that have moved on and it has been 10 years for me. The pain of the lost goes away, but the lost of a special animal never does.



answers from Austin on

Personally, I think a memory box would be just the thing. Something really nice like one of those Shadow Box frames (they sell them at Hobby Lobby). It's not terribly expensive. Put in a collar, maybe a few pictures of her and Casey. I think it would also be very helpful (especially at this age) for her to maybe stop, and take the time to write Casey a letter about how she feels, what she misses about her, what her family is like now without Casey and then put it in an envelope, and place it in the box too. Don't totally freak out if you can't find the collar. Ask your daughter (if you can't find it) if she'd like to go pick out a special collar from the pet store (maybe even a nice name tag too) so that she can put it in the box on display.
As adults, we display grief in so many different ways. Some of us drink, we get mad, some act out in anger, some blow off death (like if we ignore it, it never happened), some mourn for years, even falling into deep depressions (that's why all those pharmaceutical companies are getting rich!!). Then there are others who become obsessed with it. Is death coming after them! We go on diets, buy new exercise equipment we will never loose. We go on a diet, go to the doctor (over EVERY little thing we feel) because we don't want to go now either. Adults are FREAKS about death. We would like to think we have got it under control but in reality, we don't. So, it is totally acceptable and rational for your daughter to get a little wiggy with all of this. Please don't take this the wrong way, I am only guessing here, but when Casey died, your daughter was only 3 or 4. There is a good chance that no one really talked to her about death and that things die and helped her get through it (over a long period). Talking about it at the time probably did help, but as she gets older and her sense of self and community grows, she becomes more aware that things go missing! For a Child, death is not just a thing, it is a whole process they go through which could last for years because they don't have the skills or maturity to deal with it properly.
I think that as her mom, it is important to let her know that her feelings are important to you. Acknowledge that she is grieving and HELP her get through it. It's not enough to say, "yeah, I know you miss her but the dog died 4 years ago, get over it". Sit down with her, show her pictures you have of the two of them together, talk about Casey and the things that even might have led to her death. Then, if you decide to do the box, you can call it her closure box. Let her know that you will never forget Casey and you don't want her too, but that Casey wouldn't want her to go on crying and be sad forever either.
My son lost his auntie almost 2 years ago and he is now 6. He goes through the same thing, tears and all. some days are worse than others, but the one thing that helps him daily is a hanging Angel plaque that auntie gave it. It's in his room for him to look at every night. but he does bring her up often and we just talk about the wonderful things we did, but also how sick she was and that she is not suffering anymore. It helps.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Maybe what happened is she didn't fully comprehend the loss when it happened. I would suggest you let her get her closure in whatever way/s she wants to get it. Let her make a memory box. She may need to say a final goodbye. Let her write a letter to Casey. Buy a helium ballon and attach the note and let her release the balloon. It seems like she's looking to finalize her grief. Have you explained that the lives of all living things have a beginning, a middle and an end? Depending on your religious beliefs, maybe telling her that she will see Casey in Heaven again O. day will help her......Have you read the poem called "The Rainbow Bridge"? Google it....she might like it. Good luck!



answers from Houston on

Try sending her to a counsler that does play therapy. It seems to really help kids with anxiety and all sorts of things. In sessions she will learn how to deal with her thoughts and feelings.


answers from Richmond on

Maybe it's the age? We had rescued a cat when my youngest daughter was 1 1/3 and my older daughter was 3... when we found out that my younger daughter is *very* allergic to cats, we gave him to the people across the street (who had an autistic son who *LOVED* our cat, it was the best home for our kitty!)... so we said goodbye to Harley (the cat), and later we moved. The girls, now 4 1/2 and 6, STILL cry over the stupid cat! AND WE HAVE A DOG NOW! AND they've got a baby brother! They know why the cat 'moved out', why we couldn't keep him, and even with the dog to 'replace' the cat, we still get grief about this. I too am kind of tired of reliving the glory days of when we had the cat. Hopefully, with your daughter, the memory box can lay your poor pup to rest once and for all... hopefully she's at the age now that that will give her the closure she needs. Best wishes to YOU... remember, this too shall pass :)

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