For Families with Children
The loss of a pet is a significant event for a family and it can be a difficult path to navigate. Like other major life experiences, it can cause disorganization because it involves changes in routines. Children need support to cope with uncertainty and grief. Like other challenges, pet loss is an opportunity to understand each other’s emotions and world views. The process of grieving together can be a positive experience for families that enriches your relationships and brings you closer together.
RemembeRing originated from knowing that grief is an active process and that children and teens naturally cope better when they are welcome to actively participate. They gain understanding of their world when they interact directly with it. They like to hold things in their hands and each RemembeRing gives meaningful form to a troubling experience.
For children, pets are companions, siblings, playmates, and protectors. For adults close to young people going through pet loss, the gift of a RemembeRing provides a special way to show you care and a helpful means of engaging with them. RemembeRings are ideal for this turning point because they’re easy to grasp—literally and figuratively. Emphasizing the continuity of connections, RemembeRings start conversations, bring people closer, bind anxiety, and restore the belonging and comfort that are essential to enduring the uncertainties of loss.
Given as a kind of care package, each RemembeRing offers a simple way to support young people as they struggle to understand and cope with this difficult life event. On the surface it is a grief product, yet it delivers a healing experience with deep and lasting results.
Adults often don’t know what to say to young persons, we want to provide pointers for sharing and supporting them. Because children tend to grieve differently depending on their age, the best information is based on developmental stages. Likewise, each child has their own relationship with a particular pet, so the impact of the loss and their grief will vary noticeably based on their unique connection. It's vital to respect and honor these differences. In addition, the circumstances of the pet's death (especially if it's sudden or violent) may add further complexity to how you mourn their passing.
The variety of designs present an authentic opportunity to give shape to their personal experience and beliefs, and for sorting out their relationship with their furry friend. They offer satisfaction and assurance as an effective way to grieve and grow through some of life’s biggest hurts. Young mourners can work in the way best suited to their needs—either in private reflection or with a trusted friend of any age.
RemembeRing provides children with a tactile, active way to navigate their grief that is comforting, creative, and validating.
Losing a pet in childhood is a profound event that is seldom forgotten. It’s often our first experience with death and heartbreak, and therefore it’s an early influence on our understanding of relationships and life itself. It’s wise to inform teachers and other caregivers, so they understand possible changes in behavior.
Experts in child development agree that honoring a child’s bereavement helps them move through their grief and into healing. Children are naturally curious about death, but their age and familial attitudes cause varied behaviors, which means a parent may need to impart a variety of coping skills.
How a child responds depends on:
- The child’s age, maturity level, stage of development, and overall resiliency
- The strength and quality of the bond with the pet
- The behavior of the adults around them
Here are some general pointers:
- Be Honest: It may be tempting to make up a story to protect your child from the truth, but most experts recommend that you be honest about what has happened.
- Let Them Help: Contributing to the family effort tends to give comfort to children. Planning a memorial service, writing a goodbye letter to the pet, or setting up a special memory spot may give your child an outlet for expressing their grief.
- Encourage Discussion: Talking about the pet, the feelings and sensations associated with the loss, and what will happen now that the pet is gone can help both you and your child work through the grief.
- Talk About Death: What you say about death will depend on the age and maturity of your child, along with your beliefs about death and spirituality, but it is important to remember that your child may not know what it means. They may also feel responsible in some way so it's helpful to offer reassurance about this.
While RemembeRings are intended for children older than 3 years of age due to the choking risk of the small parts and toddlers’ inability to comprehend the permanence of loss, they can sense that others are coping with grief. They will model adult behavior. This means it’s acceptable to show your own feelings as a normal reaction to loss. It’s okay to explain that the pet has died and will not come back. For children at this age, it’s critical that they understand that they are not responsible for the death. It’s also important to maintain the child’s routine. It’s likely that young children will transfer affection to other pets and easily accept new ones.
Ages 3-5 years
Children may wonder if their pet is sleeping so it’s important to make this clear distinction so they don’t end of fearing what will happen to them when they fall asleep. Using the metaphor of a peanut in its shell, and that the shell is no longer alive, can help. If they ask where the peanut went, you can either offer your own spiritual beliefs or simply say, “I wonder,” and allow them to speculate. Making art together with casual conversation can be reassuring and help them be comfortable discussing feelings and exploring their ideas about death. Sometimes they’re angry with their pet. They make fluctuate suddenly between irritable and happy, and as with so many aspects of life, you will likely have to repeat the facts over and over as they struggle with the experience. Grief may manifest as stomachaches or changes in sleeping or eating habits.
Elementary School Children
Curiosity and awareness of death as irreversible grow throughout the elementary school years. Many will exhibit their developmental drive toward “doing and undoing” by wanting to reclaim the RemembeRing token. Taking a photo of their message so they have it for later may resolve this ambivalence. Loss of a pet may cause children to become concerned about losing a close relation or friend. Grief may appear as an academic slump, fighting or physical complaints. A pet’s death can spark memories of a previous loss and magnify the experience. It’s best to be available to talk, draw out a child’s concerns, and honestly answer questions even when they seem morbid. Children may also cling or withdraw. Either way, it is important to make sure children understand that they are not responsible for the loss of the pet.
Similar to other upsetting events, a teen’s reaction to the loss of a pet can range from (apparent) indifference to traumatic. Often, the animal is one that they have had since childhood, making the loss particularly difficult. Conflicts with a parent may exacerbate the teen’s ability to express grief—making supportive friends an important aspect of coping with their emotions. A parent’s patience and flexibility—providing a hug, a chat or simply some space—is the best approach.
Here is a blog post that provides additional insights about how to prepare children for a pet's death. Please take a look at our other blog posts because they go into greater depth about specific aspects of the pet loss experience that you may find helpful, including how to take care of yourself.
Selection of Books to Help Grieving Children:
- Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children, by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen
- The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, by Leo Buscaglia
- I'll Always Love You, by Hans Wilhelm
- When You Have To Say Goodbye, by Monica Mansfield, DVM
- The Invisible Leash: A Story Celebrating Love After the Loss of a Pet, by Patrice Karst
- Tear Soup, by Pat Schweibert and Chuck DeKlyen
- When a Pet Dies, Fred Rogers
- Remembering Baymore, by Peter Gollub, DVM
- The Forever Dog, by B. Cochran and B. Andreasen
- A Special Place for Charlee: A Child’s Companion Through Pet Loss, by Debra Morehead
- The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, by Judith Viorst
- A Rainbow Bridge for Gus: A Story About the Loss of a Pet, by Barbara Bareis Rigabar and Chris Sharp
- Goodbye Gus, Amy Kite (yes, different than the book above)
- The Forever Dog, Bill Cochran
- Saying Goodbye to Lulu, Corinne Demas
- Sammy in the Sky, Barbara Walsh
- Jasper's Day, Marjorie Blain Parker
- A Gift from Rex, by Jim Kramer, DVM
- Death of a Pet, by Shirl and J.W. Potter, and George J. Koss
- Pet Loss: A Thoughtful Guide for Adults and Children, by Herbert A. Nieberg, PhD and Arlene Fischer
- Children and Pet Loss: A Guide for Helping, by Marty Tousley
- Healing A Child's Pet Loss Grief: A Guide for Parents, by Wendy Van de Poll
- Healing a Child's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers, by Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD
- Helping Children Through Pet Loss, by Marilyn George
- I Will Always Love You: A Journey from Grief & Loss to Hope & Love, Melissa Lyons
- The Next Place, by Warren Hanson
- The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise, Adrian Raeside
- The Heaven of Animals, by Nancy Tillman
- Dog Heaven, by Cynthia Ryant
- Cat Heaven, by Cynthia Ryant
- My Pet Died: A Coloring Book for Grieving Children, by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
- Saying Goodbye to a Beloved Pet: A Workbook for Kids and Guidelines for Adult Caregivers, by Wendy Young, LMSW, BCD
- My Pet Memory Book: To Help A Child Through the Loss of Their Pet, by S. Wallace
- Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids, by Alan Wolfelt, PhD
- Pet Loss and Children: Establishing a Healthy Foundation, by Cheri Ross Barton
- Don’t Say Goodbye, Just Say See You!, by Patricia A. Brill, PhD
- Annie Loses Her Leg But Finds Her Way, by Sandra J. Philipson
- Always Remember, by Cece Meng
- The Memory Box: A Book About Grief, by Joanna Rowland
Grief is a normal and natural process; however, the loss of a loved one can cause such emotional distress that warrants professional help, which is beyond the scope of RemembeRing. While our product is designed as a compassionate intervention, our materials and website content are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to replace professional mental health evaluation, counseling or care, especially in a crisis and if severe grief persists.
Also, please be aware that people who provide pet loss support vary greatly in their education, training, experience, and expertise; explore your options carefully and consult your healthcare provider as needed.
If you are looking for resources to address thoughts about suicide, self-harming, or harming others, contact 800-273-8255 or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Call 911 or your local emergency services for help if you are experiencing a mental health emergency.