Coping with bereavement

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Children who have pets in the house are likely to learn to come to terms with death as part of the cycle of life.

The death of a much-loved cat or dog, or even a hamster, can teach youngsters how to cope later in life when a relative or friend passes away.

Sylvia Carter, of Lincolnshire Pet Crematorium, said: “We’ve found with our own children and grandchilden that if you are open and honest about a pet’s death, they will understand and accept the finality of it.

“Although they’re very upset for a few days they are able to grieve and come to terms with the loss and then bounce back, probably a lot quicker than we do as adults.

“It’s best to discuss the situation with the child. As a pet becomes older or ill it’s best to explain that they wouldn’t wish their pet to suffer and that sometimes very hard decisions have to be made.”

Sylvia, who has been a director of the Kirton facility since it opened in 1989, thinks that parents naturally want to protect their children, but they shouldn’t hide a pet’s death.

It’s a mistake to go to the lengths of trying to replace a pet with a substitute, for example.

She said: “Following the death of a pet the question of burial or cremation will need to be discussed.

“Whatever you decide don’t make assumptions about what your child wants, allow them to be involved in the decision making and give them time to say goodbye in their own way.

“They may want to write a letter or put a photograph or toy with their pet.”