Skip to main content

Losing a Pet

Over this weekend, we had to put our nearly 17-year-old dog down. Nettie was blind, deaf, and had stopped recognizing any of us (even by smell.) Over the last week, she had stopped eating and had become increasingly lethargic. It had become clear that her overall quality of life was no longer in a good place. 

How we helped our children to cope with losing a family pet
This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you.

Henry and Nora knew that Nettie was an old dog. We had talked to them about it many times. Henry, in particular, loved Nettie and we were clear for the last year that she could die at anytime. But this week, when it became inevitable that we would lose her, our conversation changed from the abstract to the concrete. I asked some of my lovely followers on Instagram if they had any suggestions for books we could read with the kids to help them process this change. Many great books were suggested, and of those I ordered a few:
  • Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children -- I liked this one because it wasn't specific to losing a pet, but gave a good context for why death occurs

  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney -- I liked this one because it highlighted the usefulness of death, and was a story with a boy at the center. However, it does mention Heaven in a way I was not comfortable with so I have altered the words in that spot.
     
  • Goodbye to Goldie (Katie Woo) -- I choose this one because it's an early reader. This one was at a reading level that Henry could independently read if he wanted.
  • When a Pet Dies -- If I was only going to get one book, this would be the one I got. This one does a great job explaining why pets sometimes die while addressing emotions in a straightforward and age appropriate way.
Reading these books gave both kids the opportunities to ask questions and for us to listen to their concerns. We answered as honestly as we could, and let them know when we didn't have answer to give. They have also been great at offering some ideas on how to process their emotions after the fact. 

On the day that she died, there were many ways that we tried to help them through the difficult time. These included:
  • Acknowledging their feelings about the day and the event. Avoiding phrases like "it's OK" or "you'll be fine." We allowed them to have their feelings and told them it was it was normal to feel sad, angry, or confused.
  • We shared our own emotions. We cried with them. We were honest, and modeled how to handle our own feelings.
  • We gave the children a choice in how they wanted to say goodbye -- whether with taking a picture, giving her a treat, using their words, or attempting a pet/hug. We honored their choice.
  • Included them in our plans for after Nettie's death. We came up with a plan on how we would honor her life -- we will plant a new bush in her honor in our backyard -- this spring.
  • Talked about Nettie all weekend (and continue to as needed). We have shared funny, silly, rotten (she was a mischievous little dog), and sweet stories about Nettie and her life. We have just allowed her to be part of the conversation, just because she is gone, she doesn't have to be gone from our lives.
  • We've let the kids move on. We haven't kept bringing it up with them, but we have let them take control over when they are ready to move forward.
While I hope that no one else would ever have to lose a beloved pet, I know that cannot be reality. So, if you have an older or sick pet, I hope these resources can help you as they have helped us. 

How we helped our children to cope with losing a family pet

---

Comments

Popular Posts

The Ultimate Montessori Toy List -- Birth to Five -- UPDATED 2019

When you are interested in Montessori, it can be difficult to know exactly what types of products you should get for your home. Or which types of "Montessori" materials are really worth the price. There are no rules about types of products can use the name Montessori which can add to the confusion. Not to mention, every toy manufacturer slaps the word "educational" on the package for good measure!

2019 UPDATE: This post has been updated to include a variety of brands and new product finds! Just a reminder that no one child will be interested in all of this or needs all of this. These toys are just here to spark ideas and give you a feeling for some Montessori-friendly options available! 


So, with this post, I'm going to try to help with this confusion! Here's a list of Montessori-friendly toys and materials for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. 


First, let's clarify that there is no such thing as a "Montessori toy." Montessori never created to…

Which Open-Ended Toys are "Worth it?"

As a Montessori parent, I try to provide a mix of materials in our home to engage my kids! That work that will spark joy, concentration, and repetition. It's not always an easy task, as Maria Montessori said, "Life is mysterious...only the choice of life can choose the work that the child truly needs. Therefore, the teacher respects this mysterious process and knows to wait with faith." So, there does sometimes feel like there is a bit of trial and error when it comes to choosing materials that your children need. 

For us, the right balance is easier to find when I spend time deeply observing my children. Watching their interests, sitting on my hands if I have to, letting them struggle a little with things, and letting them get bored. And what I have personally found is that here at home, a combination of open ended materials and more structured work have been the right balance. Open ended toys wouldn't necessarily be found in a Montessori classroom, but they are perf…

A Montessori Approach to Purging Your Toys

Becoming a Montessori family has been life changing in so many ways, most obviously with the amount and type of materials we use in our home. Once you see why having so many toys is a problem, or when you make the decision to move towards Montessori, it can be completely overwhelming. But, taking a Montessori approach to purging your toys is possible! And, it doesn't exactly mean that you have to throw away everything you have and start over with only expensive wooden toys. It will mean taking a hard look at what you have and whether it really fits with Montessori.


One note, however, Montessori is at its core about following your child's own path and respecting your child as a whole person. So, if your child has a toy, lovey, book, or whatever that your child super loves or is super attached to, but it doesn't fit Montessori ideals, don't take it away. Follow your child, that is more Montessori than whether or not you own some specific consumer product. 
How to Purge You…