Losing a pet can be a devastating experience for anyone, but it can be especially difficult for children and teenagers who may have grown up with their pet as a part of the family and best friend. As a parent, it’s important to know how to navigate pet grief with your teen and help them process their emotions in a healthy way.
While it can be hard to see someone you care about express feelings of sadness, grief or distress, it’s really important not to dismiss these feelings or to try to get them to be happy or grateful. All feelings are ok and it’s crucial to let your child know that they can be sad or distressed around you and you won’t judge them or try to change how they’re feeling.
It’s important to acknowledge your teen’s feelings and validate them. Losing a pet can be a very real and intense form of grief and it’s important to let your teen know that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or any other emotion that comes up. Try to avoid saying things like “it was just a pet” or “you’ll get over it”, ‘’we can get a new one’’ as these can be dismissive and make your teen feel like their emotions are not valid. Similarly, saying “don’t cry” or “be strong” can make your teen feel like they need to suppress their emotions, which can be damaging in the long run.
Instead, try saying something like, “I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a pet can be really tough and it’s okay to feel upset right now.” This can help your teen feel heard and understood, and give them permission to express their emotions without fear of judgment. Or try saying something like “I’m here for you” or “I know this is really hard for you”. You can also offer practical support, such as helping your teen create a memorial for their pet or giving them space to grieve in their own way.
Another important to support your child during pet grief is by helping them identify and cope with their emotions. Encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling and listen without judgement. Ask open-ended questions to help them explore their emotions, such as “How are you feeling right now?” or “What has been the hardest part about losing your pet?”
It’s totally ok and may even be really helpful to share with them your pain and sadness, letting them see your vulnerable side can normalise the experience. Sharing something like ‘’I really miss [pets name] too, things will feel a little strange in the house without them’’.
If your teen is struggling to identify their emotions, you can suggest activities that may help them express themselves, such as journaling, drawing, or creating a memory box for their pet. Maybe they would like to have a small ceremony to remember their pet. It’s important to remind your teen that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that everyone experiences grief differently, they may have strong feelings right away or they may feel them weeks or months later.
One important thing to keep in mind is that grief doesn’t have a timeline. Some teens may bounce back quickly, while others may need more time to process their emotions. As a parent, it’s important to be patient and supportive, even if your teen’s grief lasts longer than you expected.
If your teen is struggling to cope with pet grief and it’s affecting their daily life, it may be worth considering professional help. A therapist can provide your teen with tools and techniques to cope with their emotions in a healthy way and help them work through their grief.
Losing a pet can be a difficult and emotional experience for teenagers. As a parent, it’s important to validate your teen’s feelings, help them identify and cope with their emotions, and avoid saying things that can be dismissive or damaging. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and that everyone experiences grief differently. With patience and support, you can help your teen navigate pet grief in a healthy way and come out stronger on the other side.