I am privileged to have two very important roles in my life. First, I am a mom. Second, I serve as the bereavement coordinator at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

A few years ago, my family was faced with the decision to put our beloved cat, Zekky, to sleep. Here are some tips you can use to help your kids deal with the loss of a loved one.

Provide options.
As the “grief person” in our family, I knew to involve my kids in the process of putting Zekky to sleep. I explained to my children what would happen at the vet’s office. My 6-year-old son decided not to go. My 4-year-old daughter was able to hold Zekky as she was gently put to sleep. Even though I received criticism from some of my friends and family, I know that both decisions were right for my children.

Create rituals.
Having a burial ceremony for Zekky in our backyard helped my children grieve. The most important thing we did was talk about Zekky. We talked about our memories, how much we loved her and how sad we were that she died.

Tell the truth.
Unfortunately, death and dying is something that all of us experience. We are not protecting our children when we hide the truth from them. Through honest discussions about death and dying, we can take away some of the scariness. Why? Because the unknown is so much scarier than the known. Using the death of a pet to teach children how to cope with their grief can be a good experience, giving them skills to use throughout their entire lives.

Learn more about helping a child cope with the loss of a loved one here.

Nichole Schwerman, MA, CT– Nichole Schwerman, MA, CT, bereavement coordinator, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is committed to helping families who are on this painful journey by offering support, resources and hope. For more information about our Bereavement Program, call (414) 266-2995.

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