Advice on Handling Subject of Death with Child

Updated on June 03, 2008
R.C. asks from Shelbyville, KY
10 answers

What is best way for parent to prepare child for euthansia of family dog (14yr-old Lab with pancreatic cancer)?

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answers from Louisville on

I recommend the children's book "Dog Heaven". It is a very comforting story about a dog waiting for his owner in a place where he no longer has any pain, can run and chase bunnies, sleep on clouds, etc. We have three senior greyhounds (2 are 12 years old, the 3rd will be 10 next week) so we are keeping the book handy.

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answers from Charlotte on


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Hi R.,
I am terribly sorry to hear of your upcoming loss of your pet. I am sort of in the same boat right now. I have a 13 yr old Chihuahua, Clyde, who has a number of health issues, is on medication daily for the remainder of his life and I am weighing out whether or not to have him put down or not on a daily basis. It is an extremely tough decision to make. I've thought alot about how I would handle it with my 3 yr old son Jacob, as he loves our Clyde very much, even though Clyde is quite tempermental. I continually have to tell Jacob to leave Clyde alone. That he is old and tired and that he hurts alot. When that inevitable time comes, I am just going to let him say his goodbyes, sort of as Dawn B explained in her post and lovingly explain to him that Clyde is going or has gone (whatever the case may be) to live with Jesus now. My Mother passed away in '92 with a brain tumor so she has never met my children. However, I do keep a big picture of her in our living room and I talk to my son about her sometimes and let him know that she lives with Jesus now. I'll take on any questions he may have as they come as honestly as I can, and in as simple of terms as I can find. I have been teaching him about God and Jesus since he was born so I'm hoping that will help somewhat but I know there is no one easy way but to be open and honest as this too must be part of lifes learning experiences. God Bless you and your family. You and yours will be in my thoughts and prayers at this difficult time in your lives.

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answers from Nashville on

When my sons were little their little friend next door had a teenage brother who died of lukemia. We told our children the truth. We answered the questions that they asked in an age appropriate way. We talked about the funeral and they decided to go because they wanted their little friend to know they were supportive of him. They did not want to see the body, so we sat in the back and did not view the body. I let the kids decide what we should take to their friend--a card, food for the family, etc. They wanted to take chocolate chip cookies. So we baked cookies together and took them the next day.

I would encourage you to tell them the truth and answer their questions. Then let them take the lead on what they want to know and how they want you to help them handle it. We thought later that teaching them about death with the death of a pet or a friend's loved one was a nice way to prepare them for a death that is closer to home.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

The tenth good thing about Barney- wonderful story. Depending on the age, begin to tell them how sick doggy is, poor doggy. He is going to heaven, where he will play all of the time. I would not explain euthanasia if they are young, just say he is very sick. Once he is gone, he died.



answers from Wilmington on

I am sorry to hear of the illness of your family member. WE started preparing for the day our German Shepherd, Jackie would leave us as she was 14 years old. We would talk about it with my son who ws about 10. I don't know the age of your grandchild. When she did die, we allowed him to see her as he wanted to. As long as she still looked like Jackie we said it was ok. This may only be appropriate if the child can handle it and they are age appropriate. There is also a poem called "Rainbow Bridge" that you may want to locate on the internet. Just treat the death like a human and say the dog will be with you in spirit, which she will, to guard them as she has done in the past.



answers from Greensboro on

Actually R. it really depends on the age of the child. I'd say be very simple, but honest. Explain that the dog had lived a very good life, but he/she is now old(dog years-explin briefly) is very sick, in pain and it is yours, or whoever's duty to help the dog pass on to heaven, etc.. A little more in depth depending the age of the child. Good luck. It is very difficult, I have had to euthanise many of my dearly loved pets. My thoughts are with you and your family. I'm truly sorry for your loss of a beloved member of the household.



answers from Huntington on

I think that honesty is the best policy with children of all ages, although I try to keep it simple for those who are of a very young age. When they are smaller we must tell them that the animal is just too ill to go on living and that when animals or people come to that point, they must go to a place where we cannot see them for a while so they can rest. Of course, that is the way I feel about people and animals that someday I will see them again so that makes it simple for me to explain to my children. Not all people believe this. I feel that at some point in the future we will all see our cherished animals that have gone to the other side again, so it is not as hard for me to explain to my little ones that an old friend has gotten so old and sick that they must go away and rest where we cannot see them for a while.



answers from Huntington on

How old is the child? Keep it simple, explaining that the dog has an illness that the doctor can't treat so it has to go to sleep/Heaven/whatever is appropriate to your beliefs and the child's age, and focus on the joyful memories associated with the pet.



answers from Asheville on

so sorry to hear about your dog - it's so difficult. whatever you do DO NOT tell your child/grandchild that the dog went to sleep as they have to go to sleep every night and they know that you do as well as their parents, etc... and it can be very frightening if they think going to sleep will result in not being here anymore. Keep it simple and just explain that the dog got very old and it was time for him/her to live in a different place and that even though you won't physically see them anymore, that they will be happy and that you can talk about them and think about them. go online and google discussing death with young children and you will find lots of helpful advice, just DO NOT tell them that the dog went to sleep.

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