Help son with grieving over death of companion

Q: Last year, my husband and I bought a puppy for our six-year-old son. The two became inseparable, especially these past couple of months. 


Unfortunately the dog died last week. It was one of those freak accidents. Our son is devastated. He has been crying, moping around the house and not interested in doing much of anything. This is breaking my heart. I would like to get another dog to help our boy settle down. 


My husband is less inclined to do that. He says that we should let the boy work his way through this sad moment. That seems cruel. 


What do you think?


A: Sometimes roughing it out on the field of emotions can seem cruel. The problem is that I am not sure that you can get around it. Buying another dog to replace the pooch that was the love of his life will not necessarily ease the pain.


Pets give our children opportunities to learn about the responsibility of caring for others, provide kids with emotional attachments not to be duplicated elsewhere and teach all of us about the miracle of commitment. 


Sometimes they teach us that the hurt felt in the face of our own mortality is perfectly acceptable. 


It brings neither shame nor guilt and is perhaps the greatest gift puppies can bring into our homes.


Your son is dealing with a significant loss in his life. He is too young to learn much about death and dying from his pet puppy but he is learning that sometimes things that are important to him disappear. 


He is also learning how to deal with the loss, even though at the moment it is painful for him and likely seems overwhelming. 


He is going to deal with losses in his life. Friends that he is making today will move to live elsewhere, grandparents disappear, move or die, older siblings leave home and schoolteachers relocate.


He cannot avoid losses. What he can do is learn how to deal with them so that when someone or something of significance leaves he will be able to carry on with his life.


Encourage your son to talk about his feelings around the death of his dog. He will discover the strength he needs to deal with other disappointments in life.


Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor 
from Saskatchewan. Contact: jandrews@producer.com.