Our family recently watched the new movie, The Stray, and it was quite a tear-jerker. (Spoiler alert…) While it was a very clean and enjoyable movie, it could potentially raise some serious questions from your kids about what happens when a family pet dies.
Because let’s be honest, for most families, it’s likely bound to happen sooner or later. For one reason or another, a beloved family pet will die.
And when it does, what is a family to do? What are parents supposed to say? How do you answer all of your kids’ questions about death, eternity, and if they will ever get to see their pet again?
Losing a family pet can be a difficult thing, especially for a child. But it can also be a positive thing for preparing a child to know how to cope with the struggles of life and the realities of death that they are certain to face as they age.
Whether your family has experienced this, or have yet to, here are a few thoughts to help you discuss this sensitive subject with your kids (or to file away for future use):
- God created pets for our enjoyment because He loves us
A family pet has the potential to be so enjoyed that they oftentimes become “one of the family.” We connect with them emotionally, and they bring us great joy and happiness. This is a beautiful reminder of the good gifts that God has given us to enjoy in His creation.
If you remember in Genesis 1:24-25, after God created the “living creatures”, He saw that they were good. And in the next verse, vs. 26, he tells us that God made them for man.
But not only did God give them to us to enjoy, He gave us dominion over them as well – Genesis 1:28. As humans, we are overseers of not only our beloved pets but over all of God’s creation.
- God created animals differently than he did humans
Genesis 1:7 God breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul.
God has placed eternity in the hearts of human beings. He has not done so with animals. Animals are unlike humans in that God has created us with a soul, an understanding of right and wrong, and an ability to connect personally with our Creator. In addition:
- We are conscious of the future. Animals live only for the moment.
- We can understand the concept and consequences of our actions upon our future. Animals can only live for what is most pleasant here and now. (Their #1 thought is their next meal.)
- We were created for a higher purpose that matters for all of eternity. Animals serve one primary purpose – for the benefit and enjoyment of mankind.
Just as God created animals different than us, God’s love for them is also different than His love for us. Mankind is God’s prize creation. This is why God sent His only Son to the cross to save the souls of men.
- God doesn’t promise that our pets will be in Heaven, but He does promise that there will be animals there
One of the biggest questions our kids will often have is this, “Will I get to see my pet again someday?”
The good news is that there will be plenty of animals in Heaven with us for all of eternity. They will be for our enjoyment there quite possibly even more than they were here on earth.
Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
However, God makes no promises as to whether or not those animals in Heaven will be ones that we knew here on earth.
So is it possible for our pets to be in heaven? While it may not be likely, anything is possible. God can do whatever He pleases. And if God were to choose to let someone’s pet into Heaven, who is to stop Him?
But the Bible gives us no clear answers that this will be the case. So, it’s okay to simply be honest about this with our children by telling them that we just don’t know.
What is important is helping our children understand that regardless of what animals will be in Heaven, they will not be there because they have a soul like we do, but simply because God has chosen for them to be a part of eternity for us to enjoy.
- God understands how we feel when we lose something or someone we love
This could be the most important lesson of all that your children could learn through the loss of a pet. God cares about us when we hurt, and He understands.
The loss of things we love in this life is a sad reality of living in a fallen world. Ever since Adam and Eve “lost” in the Garden of Eden, loss has been a constant part of the human existence. Yet God understands our feelings and frustrations over losing something that is important to us, even when we are kids.
And He even wants to comfort us when we are sad.
God ultimately understands because He has suffered the greatest loss of all through the giving of His only Son for our salvation, and He understands when you lose something you love as well.
While we may not be able to give completely satisfactory answers to all of our kids’ questions, may we do the best we can to help them understand what God does and doesn’t tell us concerning this subject. And may we tactfully and tastefully help them understand the truth by giving them comfort without giving them false hope.