How nor­mal is my daugh­ter’s griev­ing for her puppy?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

?MY daugh­ter is 11 years old. She had a puppy who died re­cently and it has been re­ally up­set­ting for her. She is con­stantly vis­it­ing where we buried the puppy, or tak­ing the puppy’s teddy and hug­ging it.

IT is easy to un­der­es­ti­mate the power of the re­la­tion­ships that any of us can form with our pets. Chil­dren, es­pe­cially, can connect with pets in such an un­fil­tered way, where their pet re­turns their love and af­fec­tion with­out judge­ment, that the re­la­tion­ship can be very deep and very mean­ing­ful.

It sounds like this may have hap­pened for your daugh­ter and her puppy. She may have been es­pe­cially at­tuned to her puppy, form­ing a deep con­nec­tion with it.

The fact that the puppy died when it was still young, also sug­gests that the death was sud­den or un­ex­pected. Your daugh­ter sounds like she is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the shock and deep hurt of the loss.

Chil­dren (and adults) can grieve their pets’ deaths with the same in­ten­sity and same power as they may grieve some­one close to them who dies. In­deed, many chil­dren will ex­pe­ri­ence the death of a pet be­fore the death of a loved per­son, and this ex­pe­ri­ence of griev­ing might be a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for them about death, loss and their own cop­ing abil­ity.

The var­i­ous things that your daugh­ter is do­ing, like vis­it­ing the She spends a lot of her time re­mem­ber­ing happy times she had with the pup.

She talks in her sleep about the pup and wakes two to three times a night with dreams. She has also be­come very clingy to me lately and is hug­ging me a lot.

Should I be wor­ried or is this a nor­mal kind of griev­ing? grave of her puppy, holding on to a favoured item of her puppy (the teddy bear), and re­ly­ing on you for greater se­cu­rity, do all sound quite nor­mal, es­pe­cially as the death is rel­a­tively re­cent.

If she loved her dog, then she is bound to re­ally miss him. That means she is likely to ex­pe­ri­ence all of the same feel­ings as hu­mans do in any be­reave­ment. So she may feel shock, anger, deep sad­ness, guilt, hope­less­ness and so on.

There is no lin­ear process that we fol­low in grief. It isn’t that we feel a se­ries of feel­ings in a reg­i­mented se­quence, rather we can ex­pe­ri­ence any or all of the feel­ings to a greater or lesser ex­tent and there is no pre­dictable pat­tern to when we’ll feel those feel­ings. So, too, with your daugh­ter.

Right now, she just sounds very sad and like she is miss­ing the puppy a lot. Per­haps she is also try­ing to work out how she will fill the gap that its loss has left in her life.

I think that be­ing able to be at the grave, and hav­ing the teddy as a tran­si­tional ob­ject (like a re­minder of the puppy’s pres­ence), are just part of her par­tic­u­lar griev­ing process. The dis­turbed sleep is also, I think, just an in­di­ca­tor of how emo­tion­ally dis­tressed she is.

So, it is good that you are there for her to lean on. It is good that she is turn­ing to you for sup­port, even if that ap­pears clingy. You can’t take the pain of the loss away, but you can help to recog­nise what those feel­ings are.

At age 11, she might strug­gle to de­scribe the com­plex­ity of her feel­ings about her puppy and it’s death. So, one way to sup­port her, is to try to help her to put words on those feel­ings, by em­pathis­ing with how you think she might feel.

This will give her the emo­tional lan­guage to con­tinue to process her feel­ings and it will also give her a strong sense that you might un­der­stand her and how she is feel­ing. This is a very pow­er­fully sup­port­ive thing to be able to of­fer a child.

Even though you can’t make the prob­lem go away, it will be clear to her that you are right be­side her and at­tuned to her.

Time and your emo­tional

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in­di­vid­ual cor­re­spon­dence sup­port are the two things that will help her to ad­just to the death of her puppy. You can’t rush the time, it will have to go at it’s own pace.

It is only if she still seems stuck and hasn’t moved on from cling­ing to you and the teddy, as the months pass that would in­di­cate her griev­ing is es­pe­cially com­pli­cated or prob­lem­atic. For now, just let her cling and ac­knowl­edge just how sad she feels. Na­ture will help her to find a way through this process in due course.

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