For children, says pet bereavement counselor Jamie Quackenbush, the death of a pet is usually the first death of any kind they experience.
"They need to learn three things. First, that it's painful. Second, that it's painful for both kids and adults. And third, that you get over it."
Having a funeral is often helpful for children "because it makes an intangible thing -- that my pet's gone -- a little more real, simply because they can see that an animal has been buried."
Children also need to be reassured that it's okay for them to express their feelings about the pet.
sw,-2 sk,2 "Typically, parents try to play a strong role -- be stoic, be unemotional, be strong," says Quackenbush. "But even something like that provides a great deal of conflict for a child, because they have a special pet that's died and they feel really bad and want to cry. And they look at Mom and Dad, and they're like troupers, and a lot of times kids think 'well, gee, there's something wrong with me for feeling like that.'
"What they need to know is that the opposite is true; that even if you as a parent are not all that upset, they need to know that it's okay to feel bad and that if you have to cry, then that's all right, too."