How should I explain the death of a pet to a child?

death of a pet

Every piece of advise, every single book is about dogs going to heaven or dog angels. Although it might be comforting for her I think using heaven the easy way out for parents and I don’t want to lie to my daughter or start her down a path to religion. I am going to go to the library tonight to try to find a good book or two to help my daughter through the loss and I have a make your own garden stepping stone kit so we can make a memorial together. Any suggestions you have for books, activities or a way to explain this would be great. Thanks in advance.

Background: I have a four year old daughter and a 13 year old dog. Our dog, Nala, is deaf, going blind, and her arthritis has pushed her passed the point of no return. We came home from a party yesterday to find her on the floor struggling to get up, who knows for how long. We picked her up and she was unable to extend her hind legs. She was obviously in a great deal of pain. We gave her some anti-inflammatory that the vet prescribed a few weeks ago, but that only allowed her to lay comfortably, she wont stand up. We have an appointment with the vet this afternoon and we fully expect her to be put down. Our daughter was very concerned for Nala and really wants to help (she offered her a bandaid) I sat on the floor with my daughter and we pet Nala to comfort her. I told my daughter that Nala was very sick and that she had to go to the doctor and she probably wont come home. She seemed to understand, but I am expecting a different story when she comes home from day care today and the dog is not at the door to greet her.

Edit: first of all, thank you for your kind words, links, suggestions, and especially the funny comments. TIL that /r/atheism is filled with some pretty compassionate and awesome people.

We decided to let our daughter steer the conversation. We explained that Nala had died and that means she isn’t going to come back home. We told her that we were very sad because we are going to miss Nala and it is okay if she gets sad too. We told her to remember what a great dog and friend Nala was and that tomorrow we’ll make a stone for the garden for her. We (my wife and I) cried, and our daughter hugged us and said it was okay. She’s handling it much better than we are. All that worrying for nothing.

I think I was hiding behind the need to explain it to my daughter when what I really wanted was /r/atheism to help me through my first real loss since becoming an atheist.

Author: curmudge_john