Preparing For The Loss Of A Pet

Helping Family Say Good-bye To A Beloved Pet

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” –Anatole France

Preparing for the loss of a pet can be a very painful experience. Anyone who has ever owned a pet would surely agree that they are much more than just animals—they become deeply ingrained as a part of your family.

In such a difficult situation, what can you do to equip your loved ones for something as heart-wrenching as losing this animal that has been dubbed your bonus family member? Read on to find unique, practical, and even out-of-the-box ideas for preparing your family to get through this tough time together.

10 Ways To Prepare The Family For The Loss Of A Pet

Preparing your family for the death of a pet is no easy task. It can seem impossible to know how to prepare for a loss like this, but there are certainly ways to somewhat soften the blow of your pet’s passing on.

What you say and when and how you say it can make a world of difference, so tact is important when approaching this delicate subject. Read on for ten ideas of ways you can consider that may help your family to be ready for what is to come.

1. Keep A Journal Of Memories

With the death of a pet being imminent, you should start recording some of your favorite memories in a journal—it will keep them fresh, and can also eliminate the stress of worrying you’ll lose your image of them.

Capture all the special moments.

Consider making a kind of timeline, making note of all the milestones you've encountered with your pet. Write down the memory of the day you first chose that animal as your pet. What made you choose them? What stood out about them? How was their personality special?

Recall their quirks; write down funny things he/she does when they react to family members, what they do when they come home from work, etc. You can also list the fun places that you go together, where you've made special memories.

Add photos.

You could also incorporate pictures, and make it into a scrapbook journal. This could even be something the kids would like to sit down and flip through to take a trip down memory lane when they’re missing their friend.

2. Spending Quality Time With Your Pet

The time you spend during your pet’s last days may stick in your mind more vividly than most memories once they have passed. Make sure that time counts! Some great ways to spend your remaining time with your pet include:

  • Taking them to their favorite park if they are able (carrying or driving them if necessary).
  • Feeding them their favorite meals as long as they are able to eat it.
  • Giving them some play time with some of their friends, whether animal or human.
  • Get plenty of cuddle time, and play with their favorite toys with them.
  • Make sure to speak in comforting tones, and provide some nice, comfy bedding for them. Keep fresh water on hand as well. You ultimately want to minimize their pain and discomfort as much as you can.
  • Speak to your vet about pain management before you attempt any activity-filled days with your pet. This will let you understand your pet’s limitations and also help you keep them as comfortable and pain free as possible.

3. Take Special Photos

With your pet’s passing imminent, you may want to take photos with them. You can take some last photos of the family, with your beloved pet and the kids or even just take some selfies with your best buddy. Take some final photos with your pet allows each family member to make an individual memory with them.

Some people try and avoid facing these kinds of emotions for as long as they possibly can, so they might try to “check out” during the goodbye process. Everyone is different, and it’s completely fine to work through things your own way.

However, in this case especially, you may want to try and push through to get some memories captured. If taking photos is something you aren’t sure you want to do, or simply don’t feel in the mood for, just try to think ahead of time. Know that you will probably be happier if you take them, than if you have less to look back on.

4. Let Other Pet's Grieve, Too

If there are other animals in the family (or pet friends), be sure to make time for them to be together. Allow those animals as much quality time as possible. Animals can sense when others are sick and fading, and they grieve just like people do. It’s important that they have plenty of time with fellow pet as well.

Some ideas for letting pets have time together:

Let them go on a special adventure together—maybe to a nearby beach or lake. They can play on the sand, frolic in the water and have a few last moments together. You can also take them to a field or park to play frisbee or fetch.

Take them to get safe-for-pets ice cream, a hamburger or for that special treat that you know they love. If your pet can’t do much traveling, arrange a playdate at your home and just let the fur-buds snuggle one last time

If it needs to be said, take lots of pictures so you can look back and happy cry later on!

5. Talking To The Kids

Sitting down and having a gentle, honest discussion with your kids is important when your pet’s life is soon coming to an end. What you say and how you say it will impact the way they deal with it altogether, and ensuring that they are well prepared for the inevitable will go a long way in their ability to do so.

The ‘when’ matters, too. It’s a good idea to prep your kids ahead of time, giving them enough time to start accepting that their pet, unfortunately, won’t be around forever. Now, all that’s left is to decide on the ‘what’. Specify certain points you want to hit while having the discussion. You will also want to start decided the actions you’ll be taking when the time comes. You can find some suggestions on what to mention below, and prepare to do, below.

Ease them into the idea.

If you have kids, it will be a sensitive subject you will want to approach with honesty, but gentleness. Start discussing the process of what is to come in ways that have as positive a light as possible. The negative mental effects of a pet’s passing can be minimized by simple strategizing of ways to approach the subject with your little ones.

Explain to them that the pet is elderly

Ask your child if they have noticed how he/she is showing signs of aging, slowing down, and/or not as active as they used to be…how they may not be able to play or do the things they used to do anymore. Starting the talk out with a question ensures they feel they are a part of it, and not just being talked at.

Gently explain that your pet may not be with the family much longer.

When they ask “why”, tell them that pets simply don’t live as long as humans do. Incorporate this into whichever religious or spiritual beliefs you have in your household.

If your pet is ill, explain to your children that your pet is sick.

Children may need an explanation if your pet has a disease or ailment that their vet has said is terminal. Therefore, they don’t have too much longer to live. If this is the case, you will want to make a few plans of action, too (beforehand).

  • Be sure to meet with your vet beforehand to discuss and understand all of your end-of-life options
  • Talk with your family members about the process when the time comes for your pet to have to be euthanized. Some vets offer in-home euthanization and this allows the family and the pet to be where they are most comfortable.
  • Also, be sure to mention to your kids that your pet will be basically “going to sleep”. Make sure they understand that they won’t be in any pain during the process.
  • Establish which of your family members would like to be present during the process. It should be everyone’s freedom of choice whether they participate or not, if they are old enough to make a cognizant decision for themselves.

Remember it's okay to be sad.

This is something that is often forgotten, but perhaps more important than the rest. Reiterate that it’s normal and healthy to mourn. Make sure you all give yourselves time and space to feel these perfectly natural feelings.

Give them space if they need it.

Sometimes when people are mourning, they need company so they don’t feel alone. Other times, they actually need space in order to process what they are feeling. Respect whichever it is that your kids, or spouse, need.

Keep an eye out for depression.

Even if they just want to talk, try and convince them to go on a walk with you. If they’d rather not talk, you can simply walk together in silence, or listen to music. Getting moving is one of the best things you can do when you’re too down.

Emphasize your pet is headed to a better place.

Whether they have been suffering and sick, or just struggling with old age, they’re at a point where they can’t continue on. Therefore, their moving onward is the next natural step.

Make sure your family knows that, despite the situation or circumstances, they will be happier, and at peace. Hopeful thinking is the best way to maintain strength during times like these, and that kind of positivity will be contagious with your family members. Again, you should correlate this with whatever beliefs you have within your household.

Decide on burial or cremation ahead of time.

It will be much easier to make such morbid decisions when you are not already mourning your pet’s loss. This means deciding between cremation and burial, etc.

The pet can be laid to rest at home if you choose. Even with cremation, sometimes having a place to go visit helps with the grieving process. If they’re old enough, let them help to make a beautiful resting spot for them. The kids will also be put at ease by knowing this will be their place to visit their friend from time to time.

Consider planning a memorial service/funeral for your pet.

You can have a nice representation of whatever ceremonies you would typically follow with a loved one’s passing in order to help your family feel some closure. Having plans in the works for something like this may help your family members start to process and rationalize what is about to happen.

You can also start brainstorming ways to celebrate the life of your favorite animal. This could mean throwing a little party to celebrate their life after they have passed on, or writing speeches to be read aloud at their burial/cremation ceremony, etc.

Create a memorial of your pet as a family.

Talk to them about making a nice, happy presentation with photos and even video clips of memories with your family and your beloved pet spending time together. Seeing the good times and sweet memories can be emotional, and will surely bring both sad and happy tears, but it will help everyone to really start soaking in their last bit of time that they have left with their furry loved one.

6. Arrangements

This is something you really don’t want to be dealing with after the loss of a pet, but sadly, it must be done. However, you can make things a lot easier on yourself and your family if you make as many of these tough decisions ahead of time as you can.

Disposing Of Remains

You should also go ahead and choose what you will do once you’ve chosen an option of handling your pet’s remains: if you choose burial, will you be able to bury in your yard? Will you choose a pet cemetery? If you think you will opt for cremation, do you know a place you and your family will plan on spreading your pet’s remains?

Will you spread some, and keep little bits in cremains jewelry pendants? Or will you keep most of their cremains in an urn in your home? These might be easier things to decide before the pet’s actual passing; therefore, it will certainly help your family to prepare by giving them peace of mind that these tough decisions have already been made.


Cremation is an affordable option for many families and offers many benefits. One of the biggest benefits to choosing cremation is that the ashes can be taken with you wherever you go and gives families a beautiful urn display in memorandum of their pet.

Find out if you will be getting the cremains back. What all comes with the service?  Will the vet service be giving the remains back in a box, in a bag, etc.? Is the return of remains a separate cost, or does it come with the service?

Discuss with your family whether they like the idea of a pet urn being in the house. Pet cremation urns for dogs and cats can feel like a safe, peaceful place to have your pet’s ashes. You could always decide to spread the ashes later, in any of your pet’s favorite spots.

Pet cremation jewelry is also a great, more personalized option that can leave your family with something to remember them by, and take with them wherever they go. This way, they won’t have to just be at home to feel their pet’s love and presence.


Burial is a terrific option for families that want to have a place to go visit their pet. Whether choosing a pet cemetery or burial on your home property, it allows families to play an intimate role in laying their pet to rest.

Decide where your pet should be buried. Double check with your town or municipality for any rules and regulations regarding home burial of animals.

Pick out a special marker for the burial site. This can be something homemade or you can commission a company to do a smaller scale grave marker. An old-fashioned cross can even be made by the family to mark the gravesite.

Vet Disposal

Find out the vet’s disposal policies, and choose the route you’d like to go based on those options. If they do not dispose of remains for patients, you might want to start looking elsewhere so that you have a plan of action.

7. Talk To The Family About Ways To Honor Your Pet

This is a subject that should involve the whole family. Doing so could even give your kids a much-needed distraction, so getting them to help contribute ideas might be the best thing you could do for them during this time.

Have an introductory talk with them just to get some ideas flowing, and to pick out some family favorites. Making a list, or even a vision board, would be a fun and positive project you can all do together.

Best Way To Honor Your Pet

Talk to your family and come to an agreement on how you all feel about ways to honor your beloved pet. Of course, this will also depend on the arrangements you’ve chosen. Burial will simply require finding out the local laws on burial, and/or seeking out a nearby pet cemetery where you and your family would like to visit your pet.

Cremation, of course, will pose choices of its own: where and when to spread their ashes, how much you’d like to spread, and whether you’d like pet cremation jewelry to keep some in. Depending on which route you go, there are a variety of things to consider.

Some things to consider when honoring your pet:

Will there be a special display of some kind in the house or on the property? Is there a special toy or blanket that you will want displayed in their memory? Leashes and collars can also be placed in an urn in lieu of ashes as a way to honor a pet.

Discuss cremains keepsake jewelry options with your family to honor your pet. If you’re considering cremation for your pet, this might be a great choice.

Engraved Pet Cremation Jewelry For Ashes usually consists of a necklace chain and pendant, where the pendant has some space for cremains to be stored. This could be a wonderful option for each family member in order to help them deal with your pet’s loss.

8. Mementos & Keepsakes

What are some mementos you can find to capture the life and vibrance of your pet’s energy/personality? There are plenty of options out there, so you should find one that works for your specific wants and needs in a keepsake item.

Photo Collage

You could all make a photo collage together (a fun project for children to do). Gather pictures that span from when you first chose your pet and include as many as possible. The pics can be rearranged into an artful display of memories.

Paw Print Art

Consider paw print art as a keepsake. You can find a variety of paw print art here, or you can DIY and get the kids involved (this is especially great for young kids, which may make the end result even more special)

Use Pet Fur

Use a clipping of your pet’s fur (to incorporate into artwork—you could have the kids draw or paint a picture of the animal, and then use fur where its fur would be, giving it a little more life; to place inside of pet cremation jewelry, or to keep with pet photo engraved jewelry)

Pet Cremation Urn

Pick a special pet cremation urn that the whole family will love Even consider picking an urn that the kids can paint personalized art onto. Most cremation urns for pets are meant to be displayed in the home as a tender reminder.

Photo Jewelry

Pet photo jewelry could also be great gift ideas for the kids. Seeing their loved one on a piece of jewelry they can wear every day might comfort them, and even put a smile on their faces.

9. Be Aware Of The Stages Of Grief

The five stages of grief are important to be aware of when you are going through any kind of loss. Self-awareness can make it easier to maintain as healthy a mindset as possible, despite the inevitable mix of emotions you will feel.

The stages of grief are no less relevant with the loss of a pet than they are during a breakup, divorce, or any other death. The stages include: Isolation/denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance.

The thing about grief is that everyone handles it—and moves through these five stages—at their own unique pace. It will help to keep that in mind while your entire family mourns the loss of your pet.

How To Ease Your Family Through The Grief Stages

There is no exact science or specific formula to speed up your family’s grieving, but there are ways you can make sure that the situation remains the best that it possibly can. Review some of our suggestions below:

Time And Rest Are Key

Allow everyone time and space as needed. Refrain from any judgment. Also get plenty of rest. Exhaustion is a surefire way to magnify already-bad feelings

Tears Are Okay

Remind your family (and yourself) that it’s okay to cry. It may even serve as a kind of therapy, and it’s a healthy thing to do in this kind of situation.

Keep Communication Open

Remember to maintain an open line of communication. Always talk with each other. Talking can always help you process your feelings together. You’re all going through the same thing, after all. Make sure to be there for each other.

Understand Silence

On a different note, don’t try to force anyone to talk about what has happened until they are ready. Everyone handles trauma, sadness, and loss differently. The most important thing, above all, is to keep an environment filled with love and kindness for the whole family.

Eat, Drink and Keep Routines

Try to maintain a normal, healthy diet and drink plenty of water. This helps to maintain both mental and physical health. Keep children's daily routines as normal as possible. This can help to minimize the trauma when their world has been turned upside-down.

Consider Alternative Therapies

Meditation and yogic breathing exercises can help to increase and maintain inner joy.

Books On Losing A Pet

There’s a book for everything these days, isn’t there? Yes, there are even books on coping with the death of a pet. You can find both adult-level books and children’s books on the subject. Read below to find some great options that are out there.

Books For Children

“In Loving Memory, Dealing with the Loss of a Pet” by The Crafty Counselor is one that has some good reviews. It’s been posted by the author on Teachers Pay Teachers, and can be found here.

Another great one for kids is “Saying Goodbye to Your Pet: Children Can Learn to Cope with Pet Loss” by Marge Eaton Heegaard. This book can be found in multiple places online.

The following titles are all mentioned in a “Top 10” list on Pragmatic Mom that you may also want to check out:

“The 10th Best Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst.

“Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant.

“Saying Goodbye to Lulu” by Corinne Demas.

Books For Adults

“Healing Pet Loss : Practical Steps for Coping and Comforting Messages from Animals and Spirit Guides" by Marianne Soucy. This is an idea if you’re looking for coping methods that are a little outside the box.

“Pet Loss Poems : To Heal Your Heart and Soul” by Wendy Van de Poll. This is a different, refreshing take on ways to deal with grief. Sometimes, the answer lies in poetry.

“Furry Farewell Grief Handbook: Life and Pet Loss Coaching Growing from Grief to Greatness” by Dan C. Crenshaw

“When Your Pet Dies” by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D is mentioned in an article by Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC titled “What’s The Best Pet Loss Grief Book?”

Figure out whichever books might be right for you, and consider adding it into your new daily routine. Tell your kids you will read a little of their book every night before they go to sleep, or they can practice reading it themselves. It may become a kind of comfort with their new normal.

10. Pet Loss Groups

You might want to consider joining a pet loss group if you’re feeling the need for more support, or just people to talk to who are going through similar experiences. Sometimes, strangely enough, talking to strangers is easier when you’re experiencing grief and loss.

Joining a pet loss group can help to get through the grief stages more smoothly. There are plenty of these groups on the internet that can help to ease this process. Please see a list of suggestions below.

If going to one of these events seems strange or daunting at first, give yourself a mental “out”. Tell yourself that you only need to attend one, and if you hate it, you can refrain from attending another meeting. That way, you won’t feel overwhelmed by any kind of commitment, and you can go by your feelings.

Don't Prolong Your Pet's Pain

No matter what, make sure you are not inadvertently prolonging your pet’s pain simply to satisfy your own feelings. Remember that one of the main responsibilities of owning a pet is to care for them, and when needed, make difficult decisions on their behalf. They can’t decide these things for themselves, so you represent them. Try and represent them as well as you can, and keep their best interests at heart down to the very end.

Choosing to end your pet’s life is never an easy decision to make, but it can help to remember that doing so would only prevent them from continuing to suffer any longer. Just like any other love, you’ve got to try and be as selfless as you can.

Never Forgotten & Remembered Always

Overall, losing a pet is a very difficult experience for everyone, but the pain of their loss is still worth the incredible joy of having had them in our lives. As Alfred Lord Tynneson said, “’It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” This can be applied to pets just as much as other humans.

The best thing you can do is simply cherish your time with your pet, and when they’ve passed on, cherish those memories. Know that you can keep those with you forever, and in doing so, they live on.

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June 14, 2020 by Frances Kay