How do you help a mourning child?

coolmamaJanuary 3, 2007

2 days before Christmas,my daughter's pet of 3 years died.He actually died in my hands and she saw the whole thing. We were both crying and I was trying to save him by blowing into his mouth as he gasped for breath.Then,his heart fluttered and his eyes went glassy and he was gone.

We went out in the rain and buried him in the middle of the night.We were all upset about it.It didnt even feel like a holiday to us at all.My daughter though...has been crying everyday.

No matter what I say it doesnt really seem to help that much.

She is starting to seem kind of withdrawn too now.She has never exprienced anything/anyone dying before and I just dont know what to do to help.

We had a memorial service for the pet.I have told her he is in a better place and she will see him again someday.But everytime I console her,she only crys harder.

Please,any parent who has been through this,how do help them with the pain?

My daughter cannot get herself this worked up or she will get a stomach migraine (yes,it's a real thing~look it up) and have to go to the hospital.

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How old is the child and what kind of pet? Is it an option to go shopping for another to replace it? As the mom of two kids we have had many guinea pigs, bunnies, hamsters. All wept over with deep sorrow, all replaced with new equally well loved pets.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 12:24PM
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Sorry about the stomach migraines -- My son also gets something I think may be stomach migraines, but no diagnosis yet. I know how difficult they can be.

On the pet issue, I second the advice about getting a new pet when your daughter is ready. Sometimes, kids seem to go into "extended grieving mode" when it gets them hugs and sympathy. Maybe one last conversation about the dear departed pet followed by a "When you're ready to move on, let's go together to shop for a new one" enticement might help.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 2:44PM
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I think you should get another pet especially if you are concerned for your daughter's health. How old is she? Getting another pet is a way to change her focus from death to life. Let her know that you aren't replacing her pet, you are putting something in the place of the hole in her heart that was left when her beloved pet died.

I have a 16 yr. old daughter and have seen her grieve for both pets and family and friends deaths. It is very hard and you have to gauge what you say age appropriately.

We always had "funerals" for our pets in the yard. The two cats that we have lost were buried in wooden wine boxes. Our vet was kind enough to let me bring my animals home to bury. Some states prohibit it. My husband had my daughter put a favorite toy of the particular pet, and blanket in with the pet. One cat had torn up a piece of trim at the front door. When my husband replaced it, he just put the old piece in a shed. Well, when that cat died, he cut a small piece of the trim and that went with the cat. We each said something positive about the pet, funny memories and shared our sorrows and then buried them. It was very cathartic in the same way a funeral can be when you celebrate the life of the person who is gone rather than concentrate on the death. Each cat has a different stone over where it is buried and we planted perennials that come each spring to remind us of our angel friends.

Your daughter may be feeling that she has no control and may be questioning deaths of others. I think when you bury or memorialize the pet it gives control back over what has happened.

I totally understand your daughter's reaction. Mine is very sensitive as well. In the event she doesn't start doing a little better each day, perhaps you should speak with your pediatrician and they might have a couple of ideas.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 3:31PM
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Thank you for your kind responses.My daughter is 8 years old. I bought her a baby bunny to try to help,and she says it's just not the same.She loves the new bunny,but says that the other pet was her "best friend" .
I'am trying so much to distract her from her feelings!

Sweeby,sorry also to hear about your son. I have not known any others whose children had this stomach migraine thing.It has really been hard.Because my daughter throws up from it all the time,she is so skinny! So depression on top of this is not a good thing.
Since school started back up again I think that it has helped to get her mind off of it somewhat. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 4:49PM
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Have you tried Phenergan suppositories for the vomiting? It's the only thing we've found that works, and it works quickly (15 minutes) for our son. We keep some on hand for when his 'episodes' happen.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 6:55PM
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No...the doctors havent been too helpful.She has been to a neurologist and g.i. specialist.One of them told me just to give her children's advil at the onset of one. It has helped little,cause if she doesnt get it in time it doesnt work. (something about the advil should stop the crampage that happens in her stomach)
Thanks for the suggestion though.I will be sure to ask her pediatrician next time we go in for a visit. They happen pretty frequently,and we spend at least one weekend a month in the hospital.(before it was even more often then that)
There is always hope she will out grow it as her pediatricain says.
How old is your son? My daughter has had them for 6 years now.
I feel bad cuz alot of people in my family have migraines and I feel I passed this curse onto her.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 7:56PM
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Didn't you guys get a rabbit, or am I remembering someone else? Anyway, I was also an emotional child and any pet deaths were extremely hard on me. I can feel for your daughter, having health problems probably makes for more emotion as well?

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 11:50PM
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OOPS! Sorry. I now see the post above where you said you did indeed get a rabbit. :)

    Bookmark   January 3, 2007 at 11:52PM
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Yep,moonie,I did get her a rabbit...not helping as much I hoped.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 1:31AM
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"I bought her a baby bunny to try to help,and she says it's just not the same.She loves the new bunny,but says that the other pet was her "best friend" .
I'am trying so much to distract her from her feelings!"

I think that may be your key, right there. I've lost pets before and even though I was a lot older and more experienced with life than your daughter at the time, I knew I couldn't handle trying to make a new bond with a different pet so soon. She is right. It ISN'T the same. She knew and loved that particular pet. (And, really, that's a very healthy indication that she is capable of forming seriously meaningful relationships.)

When you say that you are trying so hard to distract her from her feelings I get nervous. Wouldn't it be kinder to be the person she can safely share her feelings with? She IS sad. It would be unsettling if she were not! I realize how hard it is to stand by and know that your child is in pain. Heaven knows I have been there and didn't like it a bit. It is so very tempting to do anything and everything just to make it go away and fix it so the child smiles and plays again. Unfortunately, for the child the subtitle on that is that there is something wrong with her grief and that she should stop that as soon as possible. Those are the times that do "hurt us more than it hurts them" but I think it is very important not to force them to repress their normal feelings of sadness or unhappiness just so we don't have to empathize their pain.

What a resource you can be for her if you can allow her to feel what she feels. Understand that it is going to take some time to get better (you might let her know that because she may be worried that this sadness is permanent). And of course you will want to watch out for signs that her grief is expanding or becoming chronic. Sometimes a child needs the help of a good counselor to get through the really hard times.

But it may just be a little too soon for cheering up. I think it would mean a lot more for her if you let her know that the sorrow she is feeling is understandable, justified, and normal. She may need to cry. She may need to talk about her pet. Through all that you can be accepting and validating while you let her know that it will get better and that it won't always be so painful.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 1:45AM
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I understand lindakimy...she has cried for a week straight though. Hell,I cried for 3 days straight too. It's just she is at the point where she seems like she's starting to dwell on it.I think there is healthy mourning,and then there is curling up with the depression and getting sucked into it.
It probably was too soon to get the bunny...maybe it was selfish of me because it hurts me when she cries. I certainly wasnt trying to replace her other pet.He was a member of our family.My husband who is 6ft and 185 pounds cried too.
We were all terribly depressed and I guess i was just trying to help.My mother was always kind of morbid when people in my life had died (my dad died when I was 7) It made me feel worse.I was just trying a different approach.
I also mentioned how her illness effects this too.Stress like this can make her sick and wind up back in the hospital.And I think she would hate that more because she hates needles (and everyone in our county knows it when they have to give her one!)
I never change the subject when she talks about it...I let her get it out.I have had all those talks with her about how it wont be so painful.I took her to this website rainbow bridge where there is this lovely story about pets who die wait for you on a rainbow bridge between heaven and earth.I let her light a candle for him on Mondays (which everyone at rainbow bridge does) and I walk her over to his grave when she wants to go and let her put flowers there and say a prayer.
It was only after doing all of that,that she still didnt seem better that I got her a bunny.Heck,I'm still upset about it too.The poor guy died in my hands.But as her mom I know life cant stop for this and have to do what's best for her.
I know it takes time...I just dont like seeing my daughter in pain.Feels like she's had more then enough of that.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2007 at 2:42AM
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Went through all this with my youngest dd whose guinea pig Prickles died.She too used to get abdominal migraines,we used lazer acupuncture which helped heaps,we also found out she had severe allergies and the use of antihistamines and immunotherapy have helped and the migraines have completely dissapeared since she was 9 (12 now). Erin printed out a copy of rainbow Bridge and made a scrapbook of prickles, this helped with her grief.She recently lost her pet frog cricket and although she was sad because we didn't make a fuss and allowed her to grieve in her own way the first time she has come to terms with it better now.Of course she is older too.
Perhaps emphasise that the bunny is not a replacemet but a new friend,who needs your daughter to be (it's)friend too.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 11:03PM
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I have always had pets. It doesn't get easier to say goodbye as I get so attached to them.
I remember losing a pet and my mom would help me make a casket out of a shoe box and we would bury it. She let me grieve in a child's way. She did not find a pet to replace the one I had lost. I found the new friend. Might be a neighbor's dog or cat had babies and I thought I needed to help by getting one or a stray but it was my choice. Didn't make the hurt go away or the tears but they dwindled as my time was mostly spent on the new pet.
I really know nothing about rabbits. Can you have 2? Can you tell the sex when they are babies? Just don't want to suggest you overpopulate the rabbit world. :O)
It's not that she won't love your gift rabbit in time but she is still hurting and too if she loves this new rabbit will it die too?? That's a lot for this child to handle. You are the only one that knows your daughter, not us, even if we make suggestions and try to help. Find a way to help her accept death as a part of life. Doesn't seem fair for a child to have to go through this but it happens.
Perhaps, you might enlist someone to help you in that this poor bunny needs a home and nobody wants it and the bunny is soooo sad. Bet she'll ask if she can have it.
A giving heart is a beautiful thing and you are blessed that your daughter has this. When my girls were growing up, I tried to remember all the things momma told me to make it better to tell them.
You can't put a bandaide on everything, but you can let her know it hurts you too and you love her.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 8:55PM
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Oh gosh, long story short...

Let her grieve a while.

Maybe get her to share her favorite memories of the pet. Share yours too. Let her know it is OK to feel this way, that it is normal to feel this bad when our friends die. Maybe share a short-but-to-the-point story of a pet that you had that died and how you felt and what you did to get through it.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2007 at 3:06AM
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