Our House Call Vet: Helping Children Deal with the Loss of a Pet

BY CAROLYN JOHNSON

Dr. Cynthia Mazzola has been practicing quality Veterinary medicine for over 20 years. She has a house call practice in Bergen New Jersey and Rockland County, New York, named, “Our House Call Vet.” She is also an attachment-style parent, who believes in treating children with respect and understanding. Through her love for children and animals, Dr. Mazzola has found effective ways for dealing with children when a beloved pet dies.

Dr. Mazzola’s unique way of handling this tender subject has been effective in her experience and her veterinarian practice. She explains, “Losing a pet can be a difficult thing for adults, as well as children. I hear many people brush off the importance of a loss of a pet to a child, saying, “Kids are resilient.” However, when I talk to many adults, they can vividly remember the loss of a pet. Worse yet, they may be still angry at the lies that their parents told them years and years ago. One of the biggest non-truths that parents tell their children is that “Fifi went to a farm.” Eventually, all children grow up, and discover that was a lie. Rather than dealing with the loss in the “here and now,” they feel betrayed by their own parents.

Mazzola offers the following advice in the loss of a pet. “I would start off by saying to be honest with your child. Tell them that the pet has indeed passed away. In dealing with death with children, I have found that it is important to let children know that pets die when pets are:

1) Really, really sick

2) Really, really hurt

3) Really, really old

 

For Mazzola, “It is important to tell them that the pet is “really, really” sick, so that they don’t get nervous every time that another pet is sick, thinking that the pet may die.”

Dr. Mazzola encourages parents to “Be empathetic, and listen to children. Just allow them to talk, without trying to make it all better. It will get better if they go through the stages of grieving. Mirror children’s feelings, by first listening to them, then recapping what they said. This way, they feel heard and understood.”

Dr. Mazzola suggests parents let children experience all of the stages of grieving. Let them cry, for as long as they need to cry. Don’t stuff the feelings, by trying to coax them to stop crying. Again, you don’t need to solve their pain. You just need to be there for them.

It may be a good idea to have a memorial service to celebrate the life of your pet. You can gather pictures, and talk about the things that you loved about that pet. Ask the children if they want to draw pictures of their pet. Consider having a candlelight ceremony in honor of your pet. RainbowBridge.com has a Monday night virtual lighting ceremony, and pet loss support.

To learn more about Dr. Cynthia Mazzola, please visit www.ourhousecallvet.net or e-mail ourhousecallvet@aol.com.