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How do we tell our grandson his pet died?
Elena Shelby
The loss of a pet is a highly emotional experience for children and adults alike.

On the shelves in our family room we have pretty rocks inscribed in indelible magic marker with the names, birth and death years of the various dogs that have been with us over the years. The task of talking to a very young child about the death of a beloved pet is not very different from talking to him about the death of a family member or friend. And neither type of explanation is easy.

The first thing I would recommend is that you not say too much at any given time. And don’t offer a philosophical treatise about life and death; he will not be able to understand any explanation that goes beyond concepts he can grasp. Stress the here and now: “_____’s gone and won’t be coming back. But we will always remember him, and he’ll be with us in our thoughts.” Then perhaps mention something funny: “Remember the way he used to get so excited when we got the leash out. He knew he was going for a walk. Show me how he acted.” Then you can hopefully share a laugh as your grandson imitates the dog running around.

And don’t forget the sure-fire way to get over the death of a pet: get another pet.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education