Our pets are family members, and it’s devastating when their loving presence is swept from our lives, leaving a giant hole in both our homes and our hearts. It’s impossible to simply “get over it” when a beloved family member has crossed the Rainbow Bridge — we have to give ourselves and our children time and space to heal.
Kids don’t always understand their complicated feelings of grief, and can feel lost, confused and alone. As adults, we can offer the children in our lives suggestions to help move through the healing process. Here are five tips and ideas to help you and your child celebrate the precious life of a dearly departed pet:
If the child is old enough to write, penning a letter to the pet or processing feelings through journaling can offer much-needed consolation, especially if the pet died suddenly and the child didn’t have a chance to say goodbye. Too many adults are challenged with working through their feelings — especially when it comes to grief, anger and sadness. When you help children learn to process their feelings, you’re offering them invaluable tools that will serve them for a lifetime.
The whole family can work together to create a scrapbook that includes photos and mementos of your pet’s life. As you dig through old photos, you can share fun memories, laugh and recall the endless joy the pet brought into your lives. And after the scrapbook is created, it becomes a tangible memory book that can be revisited any time for years to come. Are all your photos online? No worries — online services like Snapfish allow you to create scrapbooks by uploading photos to their site. They then mail you the completed book.
Another way to honor your passed pet is to create a special spot to display items that remind you of your friend. This can be on a table, a shelf or any spot where your pet liked to spend time. Include items like ashes, collars, toys, or special stones and candles. If you’re handy, you can create a small quilt out of the pet’s favorite blankets or beds — the quilt could be spread underneath the memorial items. Get creative and allow the kids to come up with items for the display.
Younger children who cannot yet write or kids who enjoy visual arts may prefer to create a drawing, painting or sculpture as a tribute to their friend. If you decide to create an altar or memorial, the completed artwork can become a part of the grouping.
What better way to honor your loved one than to help animals in need? Choose a shelter and start a drive to collect food, litter, toys, towels and anything else a shelter would find useful. Then make the donation in your departed pet’s name. You can even give the shelter a framed photo of your pet or a certificate to go along with the donation. Some schools will allow students to collect donations in their classrooms or a central part of the school — check with your child’s teacher.
How have you and your kids celebrated the life of a beloved pet who’s passed? Share them in the comments!
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About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (originated right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in a comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.