Children and Pet Loss: Ages 12- 17 years
12 to 17 years
This age group may have many questions to ask about loss. Having their pet die may bring up feelings of fear and uncertainty regarding loss of their caregivers. It is important to let them express what they are feeling and to validate their feelings, to assure them that should anything happen, they are well taken care of and that the majority of people live for a long time.
When the pet is sick and/or elderly and the discussion of euthanizing is brought to “the table”, it is important that this age group be part of the discussion. Not everyone will be willing and ready to euthanize, but it is important that everyone’s views are heard and respected (see my blog “Everyone is Hurting” at www.petlosscounselling.net).
Losing a pet can trigger past losses that may not have been completely worked through, losses such as family members, friendships, schools, moving from a neighbourhood and divorce. They may come to you with questions, some harder to answer than others, but always be honest and sensitive. You may not always have all the answers and that is okay, be honest about that as well. It is important to remember that the pet they have just lost may have been the one thing that comforted them during the past losses; No longer having the pet can leave them feeling extremely sad and lonely. They may exhibit their emotions by experiencing anxiety, difficulty with sleeping, not eating or over-eating, poor school grades and not wanting to socialize with friends and/or family. It is important to let them know that even though they have lost their pet, they are allowed to enjoy life and their pet would want them to do so. You can suggest ways for them to honour their pet by journaling, drawing, writing a letter or inviting friends and family (whom they feel safe with) to memoriam for the pet. Remember, their loss is deep, raw and genuine, for many this was their best friend.