Experiences of Pet Death in Childhood Memories

  • Nora SchuurmanEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


Studying relationships with animals in childhood illustrates cultural conceptions of animals as well as those about children and childhood. Similarly, childhood experiences related to animal death demonstrate associated rituals, practices, and conceptions. This chapter scrutinizes the memories of animal death in childhood, based on data comprising narratives collected in a nationwide writing collection on human–pet relations in Finland. The data used includes the authors’ memories of animal death in childhood. Theoretically, the study draws on recent studies about childhood and about human–animal relations, with a relational viewpoint that emphasizes emotions and embodiment.

The study suggests that there are special meanings involved in relations with animals in childhood, and these are epitomized in the experiences of animal death. The memories analyzed illustrate the position of animals as friends and family members already before pet keeping became a central part of home and family. Animal companions have been lost and killed, buried, and mourned, and their death is frequently contextualized in the experiences of growing up. In the childhood memories analyzed in this study, the human–animal boundary does not appear clear-cut, but instead, mourning the loss of an animal bears similarities to mourning the death of a human. However, grief for a dead animal has been culturally forbidden, which is seen in parents’ relative silence and the challenges faced in communicating the grief between parents and children.


Childhood Death Emotions Finland Human–animal relations Memory Pets 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TurkuTurkuFinland

Section editors and affiliations

  • Pauliina Rautio
    • 1
  • Tracy Young
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.Swinbourne UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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