When telling children what happened, avoid euphemisms such as, “We had to put Buffy to sleep,” “Buffy got sick and died,” “God took Buffy to heaven,” or “Buffy has gone away.” All of these ways of describing death can be confusing to children and can cause them to fear going to sleep or getting sick, to fear or feel angry toward God, or to believe the pet will come back someday.
Linda M. Peterson writes in “Surviving the Heartbreak of Choosing Death for Your Pet” that a healthy, clear, factual explanation to a child might sound something like this: “When Max died, his body stopped working. He [couldn’t] breathe, eat, hear, see, go to the bathroom, or play with his friends anymore.” She suggests that a child will be encouraged to talk about feelings concerning death and loss.
Involve your children in the animal’s memorial service and rituals or in creating mementos to commemorate your pet’s life. Tell your child what has been done with the animal’s body.