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Ways to Memorialize the Loss of a Pet

pet loss

Losing a pet can be hard on kids. Whether they’ve had it for a short time or for several years,
kids tend to develop very strong bonds with their pet quickly and to love it deeply.

September 10 is National Pet Memorial Day, a fitting occasion to consider what parents can do to help their
kids process their grief.

Here’s a dozen ways they can memorialize their friend:

Draw a picture or write a letter to their pet

Kids often find it helpful to draw a picture of or write a letter to their pet that expresses how they
feel. “After your child has drawn a picture or composed a letter,” says Ken Breniman, a licensed
clinical social worker who works with kids, “invite your child to put it somewhere special, such
as on the pet’s grave or in a favorite sleeping spot.”

Have a portrait made

You could commission a professional portrait to be made. “Once all the toys, bowls,
and other pet items are put away,” says Roxanne Hawn, the author of Heart Dog: Surviving the
Loss of Your Canine Soul Mate, “it can renew the sense of emptiness in your home.”

Create a memory box or bowl of memories

Creating a memory box or a bowl of memories is another great way to memorialize a beloved
pet. Your kids can collect their  favorite toys in a special box and place it somewhere where
they have easy access to it. “The collected belongings,” says Soli Martin, a professional pet loss
grief specialist, “can give your child the chance to honor their memories of time shared with their friend.”

Encourage your kids to write down as many happy memories as possibly on colorful scraps of
paper and then place all the scraps in a bowl. If your kids can’t write yet, have them put drawings
of their pet in the bowl. “Anytime someone experiences a surge in grief,” Ms. Hawn says, “they
can grab one of those slips of paper and, at least for a moment, remember a happier time.”

Make a pet scrapbook

Have your kids take colorful scraps of paper and create a scrap book of happy memories of their
pet. Add some of their favorite photos to the book. “Crafting scrapbooks,” says
veterinarian Dr. Debbie Stoewen, “can provide an outlet for, and give form to, important
feelings.”

Plant a tree/flower or create an indoor pet memorial

If you to have a backyard, plant a tree or flower in memory of your kids’ pet. They could help
pick out the tree or flower, choose the spot, and then plant it. If you don’t have any outdoor
space, create an indoor memorial with a framed photo of them together. “Invite your child to help you
light a candle next to the picture frame,” Mr. Breniman suggests, “to help keep the memory of
your pet alive.” Alternatively, you could put a battery-powered LED candle next to the picture
frame. These imitation candles are typically safer than lit candles. “Get some rechargeable
batteries,” Ms. Hawn advises, because you’ll go through a lot of them if you keep the LED
candle on around the clock.”

Share pet stories

Suggest that your kids share their favorite stories and reminisce about the happiest times together.

Those memories are part of the natural healing process, Dr. Stoewen says, and can provide great comfort. “Friends and family can help by sharing their stories and special
memories too,” Dr. Stoewen says.

Create a digital slideshow or video

If you’re a bit computer savvy, help your kids create a digital slideshow or video tribute to their
pet. Select a meaningful song to accompany it, and then document your pet’s life and important
role in your family through photos or video clips. “Once the tribute is complete,” Ms. Hawn
suggests, “perhaps you can host a special family dinner to watch the finished project together.”

Read a book together

There are many great fiction and non-fiction books on pet loss for kids. Some of the most well-
known ones include Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant, The Rainbow Bridge by Adrian Raeside,
and When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers. “Reading a story can help kids know they’re not alone and
normalize what they’re experiencing,” says Litsa Williams, a licensed clinical social worker and
grief counselor.

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