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The Loss of a Pet
More than half of our population owns at least one pet. For many college students, the family pet was acquired when they were a child, and it has grown along with them. Unfortunately, that means an aging pet sometimes passes away while the student is in college. This can be devastating, and there are many emotions a student goes through when finding out the bad news. Some students feel shocked, because, like us, it’s hard to imagine life without our beloved pet. It doesn’t matter if the pet was a 15-year-old dog or a hamster; the loss a kid feels is real. Then, so many students will want to drop everything and come home. Obviously, that’s not rational, especially if they live far from the school.
So, how do we help our students get through the loss of their pet? I believe in the power of Facetime. It is a great way to see your child and to talk to them honestly face to face. It’s ok to show emotions together and get their feelings out. They need that reassurance that all will be ok, and sometimes a phone call can’t really relay that. Students need to lean on their friends, and professors (if they are close to them). They may feel alone but will learn that so many go through this sometime in their college career. Good friends, sorority sisters, and fraternity brothers will usually help cheer your child up and celebrate the life of their pet.
Just like holiday care packages make kids feel loved, a package or delivery of something sweet can make a student feel better. Nothing makes a student smile more than an unexpected delivery. Read our care package blog for suggestions. Another idea is to create a photo book of pictures of your child and their pet. This can be kept forever as a beautiful keepsake. Or order a mug, phone case, or keepsake box with the pet’s photo on it. There are many companies that offer these, like Target Photo, Shutterfly, Walgreens, and Snapfish.
Another idea is to get them a remembrance gift. There are great shops on Etsy with creative ideas, from jewelry, pillows, plaques, and much more. When my youngest daughter’s lovebird died, I found a shop that carved small stones with names and dates on it. That stone sits on her desk and she loved receiving it. My oldest daughter’s cat died recently and it was so traumatic for her. I am putting together a photo book for her to keep. Believe it or not, but some students may need a little extra help with their coping skills. The Counseling Center at USF offers great resources for help. Sometimes, just having the chance to get everything out emotionally, helps that student get back on track.
Lastly, be prepared when your child returns home for the first time since losing their pet. It can be very emotional and hard to get used to the idea of that pet gone. Be supportive and let them grieve in their own way.
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