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Kids and Death

created at: 2010/09/23To see the body of their pet or not?

The ages of your children and the state of your pets body will be the main determiners in whether you involve them in the hands on burial or let them see the body. If its possible, and you feel they are at the appropriate age, letting children see the body of their pet can be enormously helpful in giving them a very tangible, real experience of the finality of death. Children of all ages are curious about death. letting them be part of a process that provides them the opportunity to express their love for their pet- either before or after they have died, will support them enormously.

Speaking clearly and plainly about what happened – the circumstances of their pets death and the implications,  gives children a narrative that can link their pets’ disappearance from their lives. Whatever your choices, the most important thing to remember is that you want to be able to provide a narrative and sense of cohesion about the transition from living to dying and to death.  For example, “Our cat is not here anymore because she was hit by a car and died, we buried her in our backyard, picked flowers to put on the grave’ or 

“Our dog was old and she died one day, we called the vet and they came and took her body away and we had a ceremony in the backyard and put a photo of her on our kitchen table’

These narrative connections are the foundations upon which all other deaths and losses are built. With this in mind, how we respond to the deaths of our pets and the level of language, involvement and understanding we can bring to this, offers invaluable lifelong supports for all members of the family, especially our children.

Author Victoria Spence