Tips to help your kids cope with loss of their pet

One week ago, we had to say goodbye to our little Angel, our long hair Chihuahua who had become a member of our family for the last 15 years. I got Angel before I even thought about having kids. Having two boys, she was my little girl that slept with me every night and even came on all family vacations until about a year and a half ago, when she lost her eyesight to cataracts in both eyes. That was a huge adjustment for her, but she still was able to get around the house through her sense of smell. Over the last three months, she developed a limp that the vet diagnosed with arthritis. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when one morning, a couple of weeks ago, she lost the ability to walk altogether. We took her to another vet that diagnosed her with a spinal injury (slipped disc) where the only treatment was surgery that she was too old to qualify for. They said they had very limited success with electric acupuncture treatment. We decided to give it a try as our last hope.

During that week, it became increasingly difficult to see her suffer when the painkillers would wear off and the next dose had yet to kick in. We started to have very honest conversations with our kids about putting her down. I must admit, while my husband understood the need to do this right away, I, like my kids, was very resistant and wanted to believe that acupuncture would save the day. It is so hard to know for sure when your pet is ready to go since you love them so much and don’t want to think of the loss when you will come home one day and they won’t be there to greet you.

Last Saturday morning, after two sleepless nights taking care of Angel and trying to manage her pain, we decided as a family, the only option for her well-being was to put her down. That day, we decided to spend the entire day with her, not leaving her side, and talk to her, telling her everything will be ok and that we love her so much. The next morning, my older son and I took her to the vet. It was too much for my younger son to be there for it, so my husband took him to his soccer game so that he could take his mind off of it.

The vet shared a few great tips that I wanted to share that really helped my son (and me!) cope with what was about to happen.

  1. We are not meant to outlive our pets.
  2. We have a duty to make sure our pets don’t suffer.
  3. We need to do what is best for our pets, not what is best for us.

So even though we couldn’t bear to not have her around and would have spent as many hours as necessary taking care of her, that is not what was best for her, having been downgraded to a life in the dark where she could only move her head. With those principles in mind, we felt more at ease with our decision.

As difficult as it still is and will always be for our family to be without our Angel, whenever we get sad, we try to focus on what a great life we gave her and what joy she brought into our lives for so many years.

A few busy moms tips to help your kids cope with loss of their pet:

  1. Be very honest with them throughout the entire process.
  2. Discuss death and grieving openly.
  3. Have them involved in as much or as little as they can handle. My older son would have regretted not being there in the room while my younger son wasn’t ready for that.
  4. I’ve read that you shouldn’t use words like “putting to sleep” or “god took them” so that they don’t fear going to sleep and be scared if god will take them or another loved one too.
  5. Give them a lot of love and support.
  6. Inform their teacher of the loss. I sent an email to both my boys’ teachers letting them know in case my kids’ behavior/performance was affected.
  7. Ask school social worker to speak to your kids at school.
  8. Keep her memory alive.