Brisbane counsellor and life coach - family, child, youth, relationships or just for you

 
Eileen Clark - Change Counsellor & Consultant

 

 

Children, Pets and Grief

 

What was the name of your first pet? What sort of critter was it? How old were you when it came into your home and heart?

 

For most of us, just to think about these questions brings a smile to our face and a fondness and warmth to our memories. I have very few memories of childhood but the ones that remain with crystal clarity are the ones of my family’s pet dog, Chaka. I shared many adventures with him, neighbourhood hikes to the estuary and remaining pockets of farm land as well as back yard adventures fuelled by the imagination in a way only a child can (and the occasional fortunate adult!)

 

I also remember the day he died, at 13 years, and the impact it had on me and my older siblings – we were heart broken and cried for days. For weeks after I kept thinking I caught sight of him, out of the corner of my eye, siting in all his usual and favourite places. At night I didn’t feel quite so secure anymore and realised how safe I had felt with such a loyal and protective dog around. Most of all I missed our adventures together and the sense of freedom and confidence they resulted in.

 

Over the years I have spoken with many children and listened to the many ways our furry, feathery, and scaly companions have enhanced their lives, teaching them to love wholeheartedly, live enthusiastically and take care of each other. I have sometimes been amazed at how profoundly connected some children have been to their pets and by their incredibly sincere and inventive ways to honour the memory of the pet who has died.

 

It can be a great challenge for parents to know how to support their children through the death of their pet. Sometimes the intensity of the grief expressed by their child can take a parent by surprise and leave them feeling lost or unsure as to how to deal with it. It can be tempting, from an adult point of view, to minimise the impact of the death of a gold fish or budgie, cat or dog, and think that a child doesn’t really understand, will soon forget or simply get over it. Many times I have seen the ‘acting out’ of grief by children, that can be hard to make sense of for parents, result in punishment, further compounding the impact of the grief and straining or damaging the parent/child relationship.


For sure, over time, with support that best suits your particular child’s personality and acknowledges the importance of the relationship they had with their pet, they will move through the experience of the death of a much loved pet. For many children the death of a pet is their first experience of loss and the grieving connected to it. It is also a rich and important opportunity for parents to assist their children in the development of emotional resilience and equip them with the skills and confidence that enable them to meet the moments of loss in life that occur for us all in many different ways.

 

If you would like to talk more about this or would like support for yourself or a child or young person who may be struggling with the loss of a pet please contact Eileen on: M: 0468 590 678 or email

... artilce by Eileen Clark ©


 

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