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Helping Children Understand the Loss of a Pet

Today we have a special guest post by Kenneth Newman, DVM. Dr. Newman is the author of Meet Me at the Rainbow Bridge, a story that begins with a tragic accident in which a careless driver backs up 25 yards without looking, pinning Dr. Newman and his beloved Labrador, Gracie, between his family station wagon and the driver’s bumper.

Dr. Newman’s life story is narrated in retrospect, emphasizing the importance of the dogs that have shared his life.

Dr. Newman’s post covers an important topic especially for parents with pets.

I have practiced veterinary medicine for 33 years.  I have vaccinated puppies to keep them well.  I have treated sick dogs and cats and helped them to recover from illness.  I am a surgeon, but the hardest part of being a veterinarian is dealing with the loss of our best friends.  This is particularly heart wrenching when a young child is present.  Mom and dad are often fighting back tears.  They are not comfortable letting their children see them crying at their loss.  They are supposed to be strong.  I feel it is important to make the children understand what is happening, why it has happened, and most importantly to give them hope that one day they will be reunited with their best friend.

I talk about the “circle of life,” the fact that we are all born, we live, and one day we die.  I explain that euthanasia can end suffering and that we do not want our best friends to suffer.

The Rainbow Bridge poem has been used by pet grief counselors for years.  The poem tells of a magical place where beloved pets who have died are made whole again.  They frolic and play until the day comes when they are reunited with their pet parent and they cross the bridge together to the afterlife.  We all need something to believe.  It keeps us going.

I also love “The Little Prince” by Antoine de St. Exupery.   The Little Prince has an intergalactic voyage of self-discovery to learn what is important in life.  When the Little Prince tells the narrator that he will be returning home, by letting a poisonous snake bite him, he gives the following advice which also gives us hope.

“In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend…I shall not leave you.”

I see Gracie nightly in the stars!  I invite you to look up and see your lost friend.

Jane McCleary

Friday 8th of June 2012

"You will always be my friend…I shall not leave you.” I love it, I have lost 3 dogs, the last one was just this February and it is truly hard to accept for some time especially if you've shared lots of years together.

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