Should my child be there?

It’s been a busy month and again I didn’t blog. Not because I have nothing to say, I could talk for hours about the benefits of Pet Bereavement Counselling and Hypnotherapy but it’s narrowing it down to one suHypnotherapy and Pet Bereavement Counselling are two very different subjects although I have used relaxation techniques and hypnosis with some pet bereavement clients. Every client is different and their needs are different so that means how I work with each client is different too. There isn’t just one tried and tested formula for everyone.

So what subject did I choose?

I read an article from a vet about how to talk to your child/children about losing a pet and there was some very good advice in it so I thought it was good information to talk about.

There are so many questions involved with this subject. First of all should children be present when their beloved pet is being put to sleep?

This is a difficult question because every child is different and unique and as a parent you know your child the best. Usually your vet will be able to help you with that decision but ultimately it is your decision.

So how do you decide?

The loss of a pet is devastating. As an adult making the decision to euthanase a pet we can experience huge emotions of grief and distress. Your vet can help guide you through the process. Most vets I have experienced have been wonderful and explained the process with kindness and understanding, apart from the last one who was a locum and didn’t read up on my pets history. If she had, she might not have made the process more difficult and traumatic for us.

The key point here is the decision for your child to be present is down to the individual child. Each child is unique and at different ages different children will react to situations differently. Some children will understand what is happening and others won’t. It is up to you as a parent to decide what is most appropriate.

Something I personally believe is to be truthful to your child and pitch it at a level they understand. Again, you know your child better than anyone and you know what the can and cannot understand. I have heard that the term “put to sleep” can cause children to have a fear of falling asleep because they don’t understand the term. In my humble opinion I think the best thing to do is tell the truth.

If your child understands the concept then you may want to discuss with them about the process of euthanasia. But, what if you don’t understand if you have never experienced it? I know that if you ask your vet they will be happy to discuss what actually happens.

I know from experience it is usually an overdose of anaesthetic injected into a vein, the animal falls unconscious and the heart stops, but I also know it depends on the species of animal. I have experience with hamsters, gerbils, cats and dogs but not any other animal. There will be a needle or catheter involved. Is your child scared of needles? Do clinical settings upset them? These are all things you have to think about before you make a decision that your child is there or not.

My son was 18 when we had to euthenise our first dog, even at his age he was given the option of attending or not. He decided against it but has been there with following pets as he regretted it. It really isn’t an easy decision and there is no right or wrong answer.

You also have to think about even if your child does understand and is getting distressed , but you have to consider the welfare of your beloved pet. The vet team want a euthanasia to be as calm as possible and if the child could cause the animal be become agitated or distressed it may be best for the child to stay at home and spend time with their beloved pet there to say goodbye and for you to go to the vet clinic without them so that the pets last few minutes are in a calm and tranquil environment.

If they are present my tips would be:

· Be truthful about what is happening

· Make sure they understand fully and ask them if they understand

· Answer any questions they have

· Ask them if they wish to be present or if they would like to have some time to say goodbye and then leave before the procedure

If they decide not to be present:

· Still tell the truth and explain where the pet is going

· Make sure they understand what is happening when you leave

· Answer any questions they have

· Give them time to say goodbye in their own way at home

· Allow then to make memories if it will help – a collar, a paw print, a photo

· Validate their feelings of grief – grief is normal and has NO time limit

· Support them afterwards

If you need any help with this please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Grief is normal, there are many emotions involved with grieving and all of them are valid. Take time to grieve. Be kind to yourself and let yourself feel the emotions. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Don’t be afraid to talk about your beloved pet and don’t let people tell you you should "get over it".

Grief can happen before you lose your pet if you know they have a terminal illness too, this is called anticipatory grief and I will talk about this in another blog.

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