You can help your child cope with the death of a pet by helping her to understand that loss and grief are a natural part of the cycle of life. Encourage your child to tell you what she is feeling and answer any questions. There are also books we suggest in the We Recommend section of this website (which are available in most children's sections of the library) about a pet's death, that you can read and talk about together.
Remember, it's not the size or kind of pet that matters, but how important it was to your child - so don't say things like, "It was only a goldfish." If your child feels you don't approve of the depth of his loss, it just makes it harder for him to cope.
It may be comforting for your child to have some kind of a farewell ceremony for the pet. Put a picture of the pet in your child's bedroom. Encourage everyone in the family to talk about their special memories of the pet.
It's not a good idea, while your child is grieving intensely, to try and distract him with fun activities. It's hard to accept the loss of a pet - whom one has really loved. Children need time to experience all their feelings and accept the loss. It's an important process to learn for later on in life.
It is not atypical for a child to feel strongly and intensely sad about the death of a beloved pet for a period of six to eight weeks. However, if it lasts longer than this, consult your child's physician. It may also be helpful to consult your child's day care provider or school teacher to see if this behaviour is happening away from home, too. If you are in Canada, and you wish to speak to a counsellor about this, contact Parent Help Line, 1-888-603-9100.