If children are old enough to reason, they are old enough to sense accurately when they are being left out of important discussions about things that maybe should be spoken about in front of them. When my grandchildren lost their beloved dog, it mattered to them a great deal. Their pet was the first death that they had experienced. They’d developed a strong attachment to Bonno as this dog had become their playmate and protector.
They grieved and needed support and guidance to understand their loss and to mourn. They wanted to remember him always. They were young and only had some understanding of death but I am not sure whether the youngest comprehended the permanence of it. Their parents spoke to them about their dog and when they went to bed that night, their father buried it in the garden. Next morning he took them to the site where one of them wrote the dog’s name while the other drew a picture that his mother pinned onto the post that had been erected. The third child was much older.
Their parents answered all their questions honestly. When their cat was attacked and died of her wounds a few weeks later, the process was repeated. They spoke a lot about the loss of two pets in such a short period of time and asked whether they could get another dog. Their parents obliged and they love the new dog very much.
Not long after these upsets, my husband passed away and the youngest, who was four at the time, said;
“Is grandma going to bury Pappa the way Dad buried our pets?” When my children related my grandson’s words to me, it was the brightest part of my day because of the natural way young children have of saying things.