Tomorrow morning we need to tell our 3.5 year old that our beloved dog has died. Please help.
I've read this previous question about explaining euthanasia to a preschooler
Sadly, this was sudden (he was hit by a car) so the explanation that the dog is in a better place due to a long term illness doesn't apply.
Additional complication: we are not religious, explanations including heaven or God do not apply.
I've been given advice to tell her he went to live with someone else, but I think that would likely set expectations that he will return.
At the moment, the most logical choice seems to be to tell her just that "he died", and that we will miss him. Although she is familiar with the word, it has only ever been applied to bugs and batteries before. I know her understanding will be fuzzy but it allows for her to realize he is gone and grieve in whatever way a 3.5 year old does. We will support her and answer her questions as honestly as possible -- with the exception that we won't tell her about him being hit by a car for fear that it might cause unnecessary fear and confusion at this age (she knows that we have to be careful in parking lots and crossing the street so we don't get hit by cars, but it seems excessively cruel and unnecessary to illustrate this to a 3.5 year old this way).
This evening she saw that we were upset and crying and expressed some concern. She needs to know we are not fighting or mad at her.
Sorry for the ramble. It has been a long and difficult day.
The question is, do you have any additional or contrary advice or anecdotes? Thank you.