How Do You Help a Child Say Goodbye to a Pet?


I highly recommend this caring and engaging picture book to help you console a child after the death of a pet. Sammy In The Sky is written by Barbara Walsh and Illustrated by Jamie Wyeth for children between the ages of 4-7. 

Story Summary:

Sammy In The Sky is the story of a little girl, the death of her beloved dog, and the loving response within a family. Daddy gently tells the family that Sammy is sick, and soon after that Sammy dies. The family recounts memories of Sammy, remembering his silly ways. As they grieve for Sammy, the family repeats some of the same activities they once enjoyed with Sammy- but now without him. This hurts. But it does help to heal their hearts. Sweeping watercolor paintings by Jamie Wyeth illuminate this story about love, companionship and saying goodbye to a beloved pet.

Links to Children’s Grief Support:  

The father in this story models direct and simple communication as he tells his children about Sammy’s illness and death. This inclusiveness builds trust within the family. (Because even if you try to hide the truth, children always know when something is wrong.) The father listens carefully to his children, answers only the questions they have, and does not overwhelm them with too much information. Later, when the youngest child expresses hope that Sammy’s death is not permanent, the father gently explains that Sammy will not come back.  

“Can’t Sammy come back?” I asked Daddy.
“Just for a little while?” Daddy shook his head. “You’ll have to remember him in your heart,” he said.”

-Walsh, B. (2011). Sammy in the sky.  Somerville: Candlewick Press

This story assists both sisters, each at a unique developmental level, as they work to understand the permanence of death. One child is too young to cognitively process the death and hatches a plan retrieve Sammy from the sky. But the more developed child is able to begin to comprehend death is permanent. She expresses that her younger sister’s notion of bringing the dog home is not possible. This narrative will help you gently assist children as they begin to comprehend the permanence of death. 

Sammy In The Sky teaches and models lovely ways for adults to help bereaved children. In the story adults listen to their children, give them space to ask questions, and patiently explain that Sammy cannot come back. That is so painful. Adults also provide ways for the entire family to remember Sammy, helping the children turn their grief into mourning. Laced with melancholy, the family partakes in activities they once enjoyed with Sammy when he was alive, which is an important part of the healing process for grieving children. 

Barbara Walsh visits and Skypes schools, grief centers, and workshops. She also mails personalized copies of Sammy In The Sky to families and kids (with a customary charge for the book and postage.) What a lovely idea. 

You can contact Barbara directly:

Copyright (2016) Suzanne Bayer. All Rights Reserved.