Losing a Pet: Our Story
A few weeks ago, my family said goodbye to our loyal dog of 12 years. Sadie was such a big part of our life – a constant and loyal gift during many different seasons. Losing her was harder than I expected. And while I have lost pets before, this was the first time I had to help my children navigate the death of a pet. I hope that by sharing how we walked through the experience, I can offer support to someone else experiencing the loss of a family pet.
Helping My Children Process their Loss
After losing Sadie, it was very important to me that I helped my children process their grief. My girls are 5 and 6, and Sadie was a very big part of our everyday life. I knew that they needed my support in understanding the process of losing Sadie and the emotions that followed.
Thankfully, in our home we speak very openly about death. I have not shied away or ignored their questions regarding death. With the work that I do, we are very consistent about talking about what happens when we pass away and why comforting each other after loss is important. So when it came time to say goodbye to Sadie, we were very open about why Sadie was leaving earth and what would happen.
My oldest struggled acutely. Her grief was very raw and even though it was hard, I let her sit in that place, ask her questions, and cry her tears. I let both daughters be a part of the experience of saying goodbye to Sadie, which helped settle their minds and hearts. I think that sometimes the imaginations of children can paint very traumatic pictures of death, but seeing her, petting her, and snuggling her after she passed away helped calm their minds.
I knew my children would struggle with the passing of Sadie, so I gave them each their own laurelbox. My girls have been at home with me while I've built laurelbox, and they are very much a part of my daily routine of shipping and creating products. I call them my "little helpers" and they love working beside me in my office doing small tasks. They understand that each box we pack is being sent to comfort someone who is sad, and they join me to pray for the women who receive these boxes. It's not uncommon that we will spend weeks or months praying very specifically for a mama or woman whose name came through our office. So when I packed up their laurelboxes with a Pet Pawprint Necklace and Glisten Where they Rest Glitter, it was just so emotional for all of us. Here were my little girls, who have been beside me for each step of this journey, now experiencing their own grief and being touched by the pet memorial gifts I had designed.
They have continued to struggle over the last few weeks, and I have been careful to slow down and let them experience their emotions as they come. When they want to spend time at Sadie's gravesite, we spend time there. When they have questions, I answer them clearly and directly. When they want to be sad, I give them the time to be sad. It's always hard seeing your children experience loss, but I know the tools they are learning through this experience will serve them later in life.
Taking Care of Myself
On the day we lost Sadie, I spent most of my hours figuring the logistics for caring for Sadie at the end and supporting my children. After I put my kids to bed at the end of that really difficult day, I picked up a pamphlet the vet had left behind for me called "What to Expect After Your Pet Passes." The pamphlet talked about caring for yourself after loss, and how important it is to rest, eat, and drink. It wasn't until that moment (at 7pm) that I realized I had not eaten anything all day. And while I know that ignoring yourself during loss is super common, I was taken aback that I had totally forgotten to feed myself all day.
Even though I didn't feel like eating, I put a single bite of food in my mouth, drank some water, and then took a long hot bath. My self care wasn't elaborate or fancy. But a little bit of food and water and some time to process losing Sadie made a huge difference for my heart and body.
While I know that everyone's experiences are different, I am so hopeful that you can find some support through our story. The pets that become part of a family can be very hard to lose, and know from my little family to yours, we send you support and love.xoxo, Denise