When a beloved pet dies, it’s common for people to go through traditional funeral planning steps. Pet caskets, pet cemeteries and cremation services, and other memorial options all exist to help you cope with the loss of your animal companion, and there is a growing trend in the funeral industry to put people in contact with the necessary resources to help with this kind of loss.
While the increase in resources is good news for anyone facing the death of a pet, there are still many unknowns out there. For example, one of the biggest questions for any type of funeral is whether or not it’s appropriate to include small children. The same question exists when a family pet passes away.
Should You Hold a Pet Funeral?
One of the best ways to determine if it’s better to hold a formal pet funeral for children is simply to ask them. Sit them down and explain what has happened to the animal, and let them know that they have the option of either saying their goodbyes now or helping to plan a sendoff in keeping with their own views on death.
Every child is different, and age will also play a role in how well he or she understands the concept of a pet funeral. A good rule of thumb is that if the child is old enough to ask what happened to the pet (as in, why the family dog is gone and why he won’t ever be coming back), it’s typically okay to bring up the subject of death.
That being said, it’s also important not to force the issue. If your child is uncomfortable with the idea of death and doesn’t wish to hold a pet funeral, respect those wishes. Some children simply aren’t ready for these types of situations, and to push them may result in even more negative emotions.
How to Include Your Children
Pet funerals run the range of formal ceremonies at an established pet cemetery to simple backyard affairs. Whatever your preferences, it’s a good idea to let your children help make some of the decisions. Allow them to help select the pet casket (but handle the remains yourself), give them the task of arranging flowers or writing out a eulogy, or even let them talk to the pet cemetery funeral director.
You can also have them invite others to attend, though it’s important to ensure that all guests will demonstrate respect for the proceedings.
In the Days Following the Pet Funeral
Although the funeral itself will provide some closure for your children, it’s important to follow up with them in the days and weeks that follow. For many children (and, indeed, for adults), the loss of a pet is as catastrophic as the loss of a family member. This is also many children’s first experience with death, so being able to understand the severity of loss and to deal with grief is instrumental in their development.
Pet memorials can be a good way to address this grief in a tangible way. Whether you opt for a pet urn for cremated remains, a photo album, or a memory box, children might need to have the hands-on experience in order to cope.