How to Help a 3 1/2 Year Old Cope with the Death of His First Pet

Updated on June 26, 2008
J.A. asks from Anaheim, CA
4 answers

The title sums it up pretty well. My son will be 3 1/2 on Sunday, and today his pet bird, Conrad, died. Conrad was really sick 2 months ago and we spent a little over $250 in vet bills. Conrad seemed to be doing well and had been isolated for about 6 weeks.

This past weekend we finally moved him back out to the living area, and this morning around 8:45 he died. My son and I were on the sofa together when we heard Conrad start flopping around in the cage almost like he was having a seizure. He fell over on his side and and stopped moving. I went to the cage and said his name and he still didn't move. I opened the cage and pulled him out. His body was stiff as could be, but he looked at me then stopped breathing.

My son was sith me when it happened and my Hubby was in the shower. I held conrad for a few minutes to make sure he had really died, then placed him in a box. DH burried him and our son was involved in the whole process. We tried to explain that Conrad had to stay in that box forever, but that we can always remember him and tell him we love him still.

He is still asking when Conrad can come back to live with us still. I know it is still fresh (only about 13 hours ago), but I am running out of things to say, and every time he asks, start to cry again. (I'm 20 weeks pregnant- filtering my emotions is not an option!) What else can I/ Should I do? I know trying to replace it isn't healthy, as bad as I want to! Any advice in how to help a 42 month old grieve? Thanks!

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answers from Los Angeles on

I received an email a while back with an amazing story. A child lost her pet (dog) and they sat down and wrote a letter to God and included a picture of the pet. They said that they included a picture so that God would recognize her when she got to heaven and asked God to take special care of her. As the story goes, someone at the post office who received the letter addressed to God responded to the child; God said that the dog had made it to heaven just fine and she was so happy that she wasn't sick anymore...she was running and playing and watching over the child. God would take great care of her and she missed the child, too. Of course the letter was signed from God but obviously written by an angel :) You could always write the response and mail it back to your son; perhaps he would feel better knowing that Conrad was happy and healthy and in God's loving care. Best of luck and congratulations on the pregnancy-I wish you all the best!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

I read an article once that stuck with me. It said that when a child's pet dies, you should create a little scrapbook or photo album of the dog. You could also just create a special box with the dog's picture on it that contains the dog's belongings. This can help you and your child celebrate the dog's time with you rather than focus on the sadness of his passing. Good luck! I hope you guys can get passed this difficult time soon.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I agree with the answer below me, make a box of memories. don't worry too much about it, it's a part of life and it was bound to happen sooner or later. He will either forget it as time goes by, in a few days, or he will learn this important lesson that we are not around forever so cherish what we have now.

You seem to be doing the right thing so far. Showing your emotions is not a bad thing, it's important to grieve. It sounds like you need more help with the process than he does, you feel it more.

Don't let it scare him, it may be too much for him to try understanding that someday we die too, but just hang in there. i'm so sorry for your loss and good luck with the pregnancy!



answers from Los Angeles on

I am so sorry about Conrad! I was a pet person before a mommy person and my pets are my children too! I am not sure there is a right or wrong way to handle the loss of a pet and a child's reaction to that. It sounds like you are doing the right thing by repeating that you'll always love Conrad but he's gone. maybe saying that Conrad's body stopped working but his birdy spirit(the special part that made him examples) will always be around us. Maybe say a prayerr say goodnight to Conrad. I hope this helps. Little kids are resiliant when it comes to death so after a few days don't be surprised if he's snapped out of it. Also, you are pregnant and the old hormones/emotions make it difficult for you at this time. I certainly wouldn't buy a replacement for Conrad because you need to allow the time to grieve. Hang in there. Hope this helped.

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