Our pets become our best friends very quickly and at a young age, it means even more. We spend every day with them, talking to them, loving on them, and even getting a few giggles in. Unfortunately, that dreaded moment comes in every pet owner’s life—the inevitable happens.

At any age losing your dog is devastating but for children, it can be extremely Earth-shattering. For children, losing a family pet is most often their first experience with death. It can be confusing, heartbreaking, angering, and feel very lonely. Although everyone grieves differently, there are a few ways to help children cope. This guide on coping with the loss of a family pet offers helpful advice on how to talk to your kids about death and how to celebrate your pet’s life to make the healing process easier.

1. Be honest

Talking about death is hard but for kids old enough to comprehend it, you can use this experience to show them how normal grieving is and how beautiful life can be nonetheless. If your pet’s passing was expected, try to talk to your older children about why this was the best decision. If it was unexpected, be honest with your children about how they won’t see them again as this lesson is the hardest to learn.

2. Allow time for grieving

While there’s no recommended length of grieving, you should allow your kids to grieve as it comes. Let them grieve as they wish, whether that’s alone or with family and friends. Everyone is different but be open with your child about their feelings and let them know it’s completely normal.

3. Celebrate your pet’s life

When you think you’ve reached a solid place in the healing process, talk with your family about how you wish to memorialize your pet. This might be planting some flowers in your yard or painting a picture of your pet to hang on the wall. Spend time together discussing your favorite memories and reminiscing about the good times you shared.

Pet loss affects everyone in your family but you’re in this together. Pets teach us a lot about responsibility, loyalty, and companionship and we should feel thankful we have something in our life that’s so hard to say goodbye to.