Pet cremation is hard enough to process as an adult, but what about for children? Kids are just as vulnerable, and sometimes more sensitive to the events that occur in the aftermath of a family pet passing away. So how does an adult go about explaining pet cremation to a child?
Don’t shield them
If a child asks, be honest but keep the explanation simple. Avoiding the topic of a dying pet causes more hurt than comfort. Sometimes the family will have the pet euthanized at home, or do it together at the clinic. If children want to attend, let them.
Children are naturally curious and they will ask questions. Be prepared to answer the difficult ones, but, as said before, keep it simple. Tell them that pet cremation doesn’t hurt and your dog/cat/bird etc. has gone to heaven (if that’s your belief). If you’re asked what happens, include simple facts about the euthanizing/cremation process.
Sons and daughters will look to their parents as examples of how to behave. It’s important to show them that you’re feeling the pet’s loss as well. This doesn’t mean you have to cry, but simple acts like saying “I miss (pet name), too” shows them that it’s okay to express emotion.
Everyone needs comfort during difficult times. If your child wants to talk about the pet or needs some tender loving care, just be there. Nobody should process grief alone.
Having a grief counsellor available, especially for children going through a hard time, will do a world of good. Counsellors have the training and the tools to help their clients process their feelings. They can recommend activities to help children after their pet dies, like drawing pictures or reminiscing about the good times the family shared.
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when explaining pet cremation to a child. Some will want to know all the details and ask lots of questions. Others might feel scared of the process and feel the loss of their pet especially hard. It’s best to follow their lead. If your child asks questions, answer them. If they want to see their pet’s body before the cremation, let them. It’s important to be available, show emotion, and include them in the process of pet cremation instead of shielding them.