Helping Children Cope with Loss

I am often asked how to help children cope with loss, and how they typically grieve for animals. I am constantly amazed by the tenderness, and maturity with which even very young children deal with this important life transition. Recently, I had the pleasure of helping a family with the passing of their beloved Marleydog. We had discussed memorializing animals as a meaningful way for children to cope with loss, and various ways to do that. I was so touched by an email that I received from them, that I wondered if I could share it, and they graciously agreed. THANK YOU, to the Edelman-Sapp family, for sharing this lovely story about their daughter Stella.

“I attached a picture of the framed artwork that our daughter Stella drew of Marleydog, and a picture of Stella kissing Marley while she was drying him off from a bath. I wanted to let you know that she is managing the news of Marley’s passing fairly well.  I think she found comfort in spreading rose petals on his grave and seeing how we honored Marleydog through her artwork.  I also made Marley’s tag that he wore into a necklace for Stella- she said that wearing it makes her feel close to Marley.  What has probably been the most helpful for her in this transition is the idea that we now have a ‘spirit dog’.  Will and I told her that any time she misses Marleydog she can just call him in her heart and he will be right there with her.  She finds it very funny that Marley can now sit next to her desk at school and no one knows, and that unlike the living Marley, spirit-Marley can sleep in bed with her under the covers.  She calls him often and we pet spirit-Marley and talk to him.  The other morning after she put her backpack on she scooped her arms down to the floor and lifed them in front of her- she told me ‘spirit-Marley was a puppy right now so I am going to carry him to the car.’  She nuzzled her spirit-Marley puppy and I could tell her heart was peaceful in knowing that Marleydog was indeed with her.  Thank you for all over your advice and insight around us helping Stella through this transition.”

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