On a recent Friday afternoon, we had to break it to our two small children than our beloved cat was sick and had to be put to sleep. If you’ve been through this, then you know what I mean when I say it’s not a day I want to relive.
But death is a part of life, and pets never live as long as we’d like them too. Kids process grief in different ways and at different developmental levels. My older daughter is struggling with the permanency of the situation, but takes comfort in talking about happy memories and funny stories. My younger daughter is processing through play: Dolls “die,” but then come back to life.
More than anything, books have helped the girls understand what happened and start conversations that help them talk about their feelings. If you are facing the death of a family pet, here are five great books for younger children:
Saying Goodbye to LuLu by Corinne Demas:
A young girl’s dog gets old and dies, and she wants her back. Simply written with beautiful pictures. One caveat: The girl gets a new puppy in the end, which could spark premature conversation about a new pet.
Goodbye Mousie by Jan Ormerod
This was my preschooler’s favorite. It’s got very simple but direct language about death and grief.
A Dog Like Jack by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan
This book celebrates the adoption of an older shelter dog and does a good job explaining the fact that dogs just don’t live as long as people. This would be a good book to pick up when you know your older dog is starting to make that final turn.
I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
A boy and his dog grow up together, but when the dog dies the boy takes comfort in the happy life the dog lived. We spend a lot of time talking about how happy our cat was when he was alive.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
A true classic, Barney is and will always be our go-to book when a pet dies. A boy loses his cat and his family gives it a proper funeral. I suggest a parent pre-read on this one, since its direct language isn’t for everyone.
If you’ve lost a family pet, do you have a favorite book you read to your kids?
Photo: cakeeater23, Flickr