High River United Church of High River, Alberta
        

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15
Jun

Questions Children Ask! Why did my pet die? Will it go to heaven?

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First of all, when answering a child’s question, remember:

 -Children usually want simpler answers than we give them. 

 -Children may not be asking the question we think they are asking. 

 -Children love answering their own questions.

 -There is no bad question.

 -It is okay not to have an answer right away..

 -It is also okay to say that some questions just don’t have answers, at least not right now.

 ESPECIALLY – remember that children love answering their own questions.

 

These questions about a child's pet are ones that you can discuss with your child, while offering your loving perspective. And I’ve included a service, at the end, and some ideas for holding a “funeral” or “good-bye” for your pet as well.

  

Why did my pet die?

 

There is a cycle of life.  Things live and they die – plants, animals and people.  We may not like this, but it is how life works.  We may not understand why, but God has set things in motion this way for a reason and God’s love for us is so big – so we trust God’s love in this.

 

We wish that our pet could have lived longer.  We feel sad.  And that’s all part of what happens in life.  If we love a pet or person, we feel sad when they aren’t with us anymore.  That’s what we should feel.  Loving and feeling sad go together sometimes.  I’d rather love pets and people and then be sad when they are gone.  I don’t want to be someone who never loves.  I want to be someone who loves people and pets and all of God’s creation.

 

Maybe the pet had an illness or an accident.  Talk about what happened, but don’t dwell on the details.  Do provide helpful explanations and reassurances, especially if the child is afraid that the same thing could happen to them. 

 

Provide a way for the child to say good-bye to their pet.  Get them involved.  There is a service below to help you.  The child may wish to make a special drawing for their pet to say good-bye.  They might want to decorate a little box to bury their fish in, or create a cross of popsicle sticks to place as a marker where the pet is buried.  Welcome their participation.  These losses and working them with ceremonies, reflections and actions help prepare our children for bigger losses later in life. 

 

Grief is hard. But it is better to do something about it than pretend nothing happened.  If we hold back our grief or avoid it, it comes out in not so helpful ways later.  We need funerals (and no matter what you call them “celebration of life” or “memorial service” or “funeral” they are the same thing – they help us remember, they provide a place to name our grief, they allow us to acknowledge that our life has changed because of this death, and they begin (not close) the journey of grieving).  We need funerals (for pets and for people).  Don’t just flush the fish down the toilet.  Do something, even small, to say “good-bye.” 

 

Create the space for the child to talk about what they are feeling.  We might think that they should be “over it” since it is “just” a pet.  But that pet is significant in their life, and so they need to grieve.  It is part of life, part of being human beings.

 

Did my pet go to heaven when they died?

 

Yes!  God created everything.  That’s what we read in Genesis 1.  God created everything and with each thing that God created, God declared that it was good!   In the Psalms (see Psalm 148 below), the animals are always part of praising God.  All of creation is held in a big hug by God – and God will never let people or pets or any of creation go. God loves it all!

 

Jesus once told his disciples:  “See that little sparrow.  God sees that sparrow & if it falls to the ground, God notices.  God loves the sparrows and God loves you!”

 

In the United Church creed, we say, “In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us; we are not alone.”  We could say the same thing about our pets – God is always with them and they are always with God – in this life and in the next.

 

We don’t know everything about what the next life will be like but we know two things:

 

1. We are always held in God’s love – the next life, for us or for our pets, will be filled with God’s love.  It will be a big, wonderful, loving hug from God.

 

2. God loves the animals.  They too are God’s creations. So our animals will be in heaven.

 

Children’s books that help with this discussion:

“Water Bugs & Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Children” by Doris Stickney (very good at explaining life-cycle and the mystery of what comes next)

 

“The Memory Tree” by Britta Teckentrup (about the death of a beloved fox in the woods)

 

“The Tenth Good Thing about Barney” by Judith Viorst    (saying good-bye to a pet)

 

“Badger’s Parting Gifts” by  Susan Varley (badger’s friends remember what he taught them)

 

“The “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst  (talks about how we are all connected always with those we love – nothing can prevent that)

 June 8, 2017                            ©Susan Lukey 2017

 

The following “Remembering Your Beloved Pet” service

in pdf for download: Remembering_Your_Beloved_Pet_revised.pdf

 

Remembering Your Beloved Pet

 Our pets are a significant part of our lives.  They provide comfort and bring quiet to our spirits.

 They provide joy and laughter and delight.  That’s why we grieve when they die.

 Taking a few moments to acknowledge the loss of a pet is important.  Remembering that God is with us in our grieving of pets as well as people is important.   Use part of this or all of this as suits your situation.

 

Scripture:(read one of more of these scriptures aloud)

       Genesis 1:1-2:4

            In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth:

            on the fifth day, God created all creatures of the oceans and all birds of the sky

            on the sixth day, God created all animals that move upon the earth as well as human

            beings.

             And God saw all the animals of earth and sky and water, and said, “This is good!”

  

         Psalm 148 & Psalm 150:6

             Praise God from the heavens; give praise in the heights!

             Give praise, all you angels; praise God, all you hosts!

             Praise God, sun and moon; give praise, stars and lights!

             Praise God, farthest heavens, and all waters beyond heaven!

             Let all things praise the Holy One at whose command they were created,

             who established them for all time, setting bounds, which cannot be passed.

             Praise God from the earth, great sea creatures and ocean depths,

             lightening and hail, snow and frost, gales that obey God’s decree,

             all mountains and hills, all fruit trees and cedars,

             wild animals and cattle, creatures winged and earth bound,

             sovereigns who rule earth and its people,

             all who govern and judge this world,

             young men and women alike, old people and children together!

             Let all things praise the name of God!

             Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!

 

         Isaiah 11:6-9

             The wolf shall live with the lamb,

            The leopard shall lie down with the kid,

            the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

            and a little child shall lead them.

            The cow and the bear shall graze,

            their young shall lie down together;

            and the lion shall eat straw like an ox.

            The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

            and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

            They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;

            for the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as waters cover the seas.

 

         Matthew 6:26

            Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,

            and yet your heavenly Father feeds and cares them.

 

Time for Telling Stories of Your Pet or to Name 10 Good Things about your Pet

 You may wish to show a photo or hand-drawn picture of your pet.

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving for Life

             Loving God, you created us and all living beings

             for beauty, for happiness, for one another.

             with all our hearts;

                   we thank you, God.

             For all life that comes from you:

             for the growth in the garden,

             the pets who are our friends;

             the people whom we love;

             with all our hearts;

                   we thank you, God.

             For the delight we have known in (pet’s name)

             in times of play, through moments of anxiety,

             in the companionship of days spent together,

             with all our hearts;

                   we thank you, God.

             O God, smile on our hearts,

             saddened by the loss of this beloved pet, (pet’s name)

             who inspired in us a love for all your creation.

             Praise to you, O God, for the gift of life

             and for the love that we (or name of child or person closest to pet)

                 shared with (pet’s name)

             with all our hearts;

                   we thank you, God.  Amen

  

and/or a time of praise

          All you big things, bless the Lord

            Mount Kilimanjaro and Lake Victoria*

            The Rift Valley and the Serengeti Plain

            Fat baobabs and shady mango trees

            All eucalyptus and tamarind trees

            Bless the Lord

            Praise and extol Him for ever and ever

            All you tiny things, bless the Lord

            Busy black ants and hopping fleas

            Wriggling tadpoles and mosquito larvae

            Flying locusts and water drops

            Pollen dust and tsetse flies  

            Millet seeds and dried dagaa

            Bless the Lord

             Praise and extol Him for ever and ever.                   East African

  

Time for burial of beloved Pet (if this has not previously happened.)

         or place a flower or rock or shell or cross or some other appropriate item on the grave.

          or if you are not burying the ashes/body, then plant a flower or place an item in flowerbed

                    or a picture on a shelf in the house – something that marks the life of your pet.

  

Prayer:  (offered by a child or the person who had the closest connection with the pet)

           Dear God,

            I know that you love us and all creatures, large and small.

            I know that you love (pet’s name), too.

            I thank you for the love we shared, the fun we had, the times we spent together,

            and for the good memories I will always remember.

            I ask you to take care of (pet’s name) now,

            and to take care of me in this time of sadness. Amen.

 

Blessing:

          The Bible tells us that “nothing can separate us from the love of God,

            not life, not death, not things present, nor things to come in the future.

            Nothing in all creation can separate us from God.” (Romans 8:38-39)

 

            Even as we grieve for our beloved pet, (pet’s name), we know that God is with us,

            sharing our grief and enfolding us in loving arms so that we know that we are not alone.

            The memory of (pet’s name) will continue to be part of us as a family.

            We’ll grieve and we’ll remember, God’s love is with us; we are not alone.

            God cares for us in our grief and helps us find our way once again

            to peace and joy and hope.

 

Other Ideas:

 -If the pet has been with you a long time, you might also wish to do something in your pet’s memory, such as help out at an animal shelter/rescue or make a donation to them.

 -Some veterinarians offer plaster casts of footprints.  You might have this done and frame it with a photo of your pet.

-If you’re giving away the belonging of your pet, such as kennel, aquarium, etc., you might choose one small thing to keep & place in a special place for remembering.

 

©Susan Lukey 2011 (compiled & written by Susan Lukey, High River United Church, revised June 1, 2011)

 

 

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(403) 652-3168

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