How exactly is a parent supposed to help their child cope with the loss of a loved one – be it an animal or a human – when they themselves are grieving? It is difficult enough to lose someone that you love with all of your heart, but then having to make the family continue to work just adds to the length of the pain.
For some parents the loss of an animal may be less difficult to deal with, especially if there are other animals in the household, but for other parents the loss is just as difficult to deal with. Grief and loss are strictly reliant on the individuals involved, on who and what was lost, how long that loved one was with the family and how the loved one died; suddenly or sick for a length of time. No matter what, loss can be difficult!
What if the loved one means something more to a parent than they do to the children or even the spouse? How will the one person’s grief affect the family unit? Will there be understanding or will the loss tend to create a riff within?
This will depend on how strong the family unit is to begin with. If there are difficulties between the parents, then the grief of one parent may set the other parent off. This could prove emotionally disastrous when it comes to dealing with the children.
The best way to deal with a situation like this is for the individual that is suffering the loss to be able to speak freely but not dwell. If the grief is prolonged, it may be wise to seek help outside of the family unit. This way the person is free to grieve, but will not affect the normal ebb and tide within the household.
When the loss is that of an animal, depending on the beliefs of the parents, many professionals will suggest allowing the children to be involved in the loss. Many times a pet is the initial loss that a child will suffer and if they can get through the loss of a pet, then it could be that much easier to explain away the loss of a grandparent or other loving person in their life.
The very worst thing that a set of parents or a parent can do is to hide a loss from the children. The shock is too much to take: one day daddy is here and the next day he will never be here again, but you are not allowed to say goodbye. This will eventually affect a child in a way that could be detrimental to their entire life going forward.
Loss is difficult no matter the age. How a family unit deals with loss will set the stage for the future. Whether you look for help from within or outside the family, get it. It is better to seek solace than to build a wall that could potentially destroy everything that you have ever worked for.