Comforting a child after a pet’s death…

Teach%20kids%20about%20death82462964After a beloved pet dies, grieve with your family through a mix of tears and funny tales.

Even pirates cry. So says the Mem Fox book “Tough Boris” (Sandpiper, 1998), the story of a pirate whose parrot died, and “he cried and cried.”

“Grief is not a bad thing,” says M. Patricia Hogan, a psychologist in Charlotte.

Sadness is a big part of coping with the loss of a pet, but there are other feelings, too, such as anger and denial, and it’s OK to feel them all.

Rituals are especially important for children, Hogan says, because they help them learn about the natural life cycle while honoring and saying goodbye to their furry friend. Ideas include: plant a tree, make a photo album, or contribute to an animal-related cause like the Humane Society.

Talking, writing or drawing can be healing, as can reliving memories with friends and family.

The mother of a preschooler in Davidson,  agrees that sharing stories is helpful along the grief journey.

“We tell funny stories to keep our dog’s memory alive,” she says.

Her daughter also made an angel at Build-a-Bear that wears their dog’s tag.

The mom also bought “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant (Blue Sky Press, 1995), and has shared the book with other parents trying to guide their children through grief.

In the brightly illustrated book, dogs have fields to run in, children to play with and funny-shaped biscuits to eat. Rylant also wrote “Cat Heaven” (Blue Sky Press, 1997).

Libraries and bookstores offer children’s books related to the death of pets.

Before you share one with your child, read it to see whether it matches her age and maturity level, as well as your religious beliefs.

Another choice is “Goodbye Mousie” by Robie H. Harris (Aladdin, 2004). A boy wakes up to find that his pet mouse doesn’t move when he tickles his tummy.

The book follows the boy through different emotions, including anger at the mouse for dying.

The boy’s father explains death to his child and helps him prepare Mousie’s funeral.

By Betsy Flagler

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