The relationship between children and their pets is unique and irreplaceable. Pet loss can be very traumatic to a child, depending on the important role the pet played in the child's life: companion, friend, admirer, playmate, defender, love object, sibling, confidante. When that bond is broken, the pain can be deep and enduring, and the trauma can result in feelings of insecurity, anxiety, anger, guilt, helplessness, distrust and fear.
Even if there is no basis for it, we often feel guilty for what we did or didn't do to save a pet from a terminal illness or accidental death. We really do assume a god-like role in our pets' lives, taking complete responsibility for every aspect of their care. When something goes wrong, it's only natural that we feel responsible for that as well.
Sadly, for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, many of us shy away from the person who's grieving, or we never go beyond saying "I'm sorry." What else can we do to help a friend who's hurting when a cherished pet is lost?
People I encounter in pet grief support groups are often shocked to discover how bad they feel when their pets die. Statements such as "I don't know what's wrong with me. I didn't feel this bad when my grandmother (acquaintance, friend, relative) died" are common. And so the question arises, why do so many of us feel the loss of a companion animal so intently - and is it normal to feel this way?