Learning about death when a pet dies

Recently we lost one of our cats, Bart. When we got married, we had five cats and a turtle and now we are left with just two cats. There have been some sad times in our family. Each pet death comes with a whole host of emotions, and when there are kids involved, it becomes especially painful to try and answer their questions while processing our own sadness.

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Learning about death

But the death of a pet, especially when the pet dies at home, can be such a powerful “teachable moment”. Everyone needs to learn about death. We do not try and hide the pet from the kids, but we have given them the opportunity to see him, say goodbye to him. For this time around, it was much harder for dad, so I tried to step in and answer as many questions as I could for the kids.

So many questions about what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. We have been able to bury pets in the back yard, which I think really helps our kids to connect with what it means to return to the earth and to what cemeteries for people are all about.
I also talked to cremation because that is our choice for this cat since the ground is solid frozen still.

I spoke to both kids about the sadness that Daddy was feeling.  Connor asked if he could draw Daddy some pictures, and while some of the pictures were clearly about making Daddy feel better.

Learning about death

There were also a few that were Connor thinking about what was happening to the cat. Both kids continue to ask lots of questions about the pets we have lost.  There are lots of pictures of them around and we will visit the spot in our backyard where Bart will be buried this summer.

Learning about death

Some books I keep tucked away on the grown ups bookshelves for learning about death…

learning about deathWhen  Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families)
by Laurie Krasny Brown (Author), Marc Brown (Illustrator)

learning about death 2Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
by Bryan Mellonie (Author), Robert Ingpen (Author)

learning about deathThe Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages
by Leo Buscaglia (Author)


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8 thoughts on “Learning about death when a pet dies

  1. I’m sorry for the loss of your pet. I know this is an issue we will have to face at some stage and hope we can deal with as well as you have xx

  2. I’m so sorry for your loss. Those without pets can’t quite understand the way in which the loss of a feline family member impacts us all. I commend you for handling it so well with your kids.

  3. I am really sorry to hear about the death of your cat. It is really tough for your kids too. I can still remember the tears shed as a girl about the death of my rabbit. Thanks for the book recommendations when discussing the subject with them.

  4. I’m sorry for your loss, it’s always hard as our animals are part of our families. We lost our only cat a couple of months ago now and Zach still asks for her because he’s a bit too young to understand at only two and a half. When he asks, I just tell her she’s gone because I know he won’t understand. It’s so hard and we miss her lots. These books look fab for when he’s a bit older so thanks for sharing. Hope you are all ok. Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

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