The loss of a pet is hard. They have been your companion since day one and you can never be prepared for a loss like that. Helping a teenager cope with the loss of a pet is especially difficult.. Their emotions are running wild anyway. An event like this can double those emotions and they may not know how to deal with them.
I’m no expert in grief counseling but I have raised two boys and we have a teenage boy still in the home. Every child displays their emotions differently. This list is not a once size fits all kind of thing but it has helped with our teenager cope after the loss of his pet.
Let them grieve:
It is so hard to see your child cry especially when you feel helpless to what they need. Just remember that this was their best friend that they lost. They need this time to grieve more than ever. All that you can do right now is to let them know that you are there if they need you and you love them. Sometimes they need to be alone and that is okay too.
Night times are the hardest for them. They may have activities during the day to keep their mind off of their pet but at night, everything comes rushing back. They will have too many thoughts about their beloved friend and sometimes they can’t sleep.
We have sat up a few nights to talk things through. Another helpful method is to find something that will occupy their mind like music or a sound machine.
It’s good to look back on old pictures and remember the good times that you had with your pet. Sometimes the last thing that your child remembers is how they looked when they were sick and it stays in their mind after the pet is gone. If you can find pictures and talk about each memory, that will help to get a better picture in their mind of their loved one.
Another way to remember is to sit around the table and tell stories about the pet. We had quite the experience when we got our dog so we sat and talked about that. We also had some really good times that we discussed and had a great time remembering him.
Don’t take it personal:
I remember when I was a girl and just lost my pet, I didn’t want to talk to anyone for a while. I needed time to myself to think. With my boys, I can see that they need that time alone too.
It’s so hard when you want to console them but you feel like they are pushing you away. They can get angry and just want to be left alone. Just don’t take this stage in grieving too personal. Give them their space and let them think for a while. Let them know that you are always here if they need you. Trust me, they will talk to you eventually so use this time to think about how you can make this a teachable moment on life and death.
Find ways to make them laugh:
Grieving is hard. You feel like that you will never be able to smile or laugh again. But sometimes, when your kids are particularly sad about their pet, making them laugh can be therapeutic.
Watch a funny movie together. Talk about funny things that have happened recently. Find a really funny YouTube video and share it with them. Anything that will take their mind off their sadness even for a little bit will help in their grieving process.
Find an activity:
If your teenager loves sports, challenge them to a game. If they love to play board games, now is the time to dust off those games and start playing. Remembering the loss of a pet is good but sometimes a teenager cannot get the loss out of their head and can lead to depression.
Finding an activity that they love will help to take their mind off of that pet for a brief moment and will make them feel better. It will also lessen the sadness for them to get heavy things off of their minds for a bit.
I know that I said five things to help cope with the loss of a pet, but I will give you a bonus step.
Have patience with your child. Losing a pet that they loved dearly is hard. Sometimes it takes a while to cope with the loss. Their lives will go on but to them, it doesn’t seem like it will. Our son has four other dogs. He plays with them but they will never be the same as the dog that he just lost.
Eventually, one of the dogs will take the place of his best buddy and he will be himself again. It will take time and patience to get there but it will happen.
Just know that if your child is severely depressed and takes a very long time to stop their grieving, I would suggest to get them help. Sometimes it takes a third party that will listen to them to help them with their loss.