Saying Goodbye: Talking to Kids About Death

Q. My 7-year-old daughter is heartbroken over losing our cat. How should we pay tribute?

A. For a child, losing a pet can be as emotional as saying goodbye to a close relative, if not more so. Holding a funeral or making a memorial book with pictures, drawings, and even the animal's collar can be a great way to help her gain closure, says Swain.

Lisa Waller's children were devastated when their dog, Rhett, had to be put to sleep. "We made Jack, who was 6, and Rachel, who was 3, a special album with photos of them together with Rhett," says the Marietta, Georgia, mom. "This helped them remember the wonderful times they had with him."

Although she was tempted to get a new pet right away, Waller felt it was important for her kids to face Rhett's loss rather than simply replacing him. "But Santa brought stuffed-animal boxer pups for both children for Christmas," she says. "Jack sleeps with his every night and calls him Rhett."

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