Helping your Child Deal with the Loss of a Pet

My oldest daughter begged and pleaded for a pet.  She even started writing subtle poems at school hinting at her desire for one.  And finally Santa came to the rescue by bringing her a pet hamster, Squinkie.  She absolutely adored her hamster and even made videos of her:

A fourth episode was in the making when we discovered our sweet hamster had died. As a parent thus far, this was one of the harder days for me to deal with.  It sounds strange, I know.  But I was not prepared for how hard it would be on my daughter.  I'm still tearing up remembering the morning she came in and told me that her hamster was cold.  She was so very sad and immediately started questioning whether it was her fault.  I tried to comfort her without letting her see how sad I was {And honestly I was doing the same thing - questioning if I could have prevented it}.  As an adult, I knew these things happened.  I had learned how to come to terms with death.  But my young daughter really hadn't.  Ironically in a 6 month period, she had to say goodbye to 2 grandmas and her hamster, so perhaps it was just a time in her life she needed to learn how to deal with death.  But it didn't make it any easier.

The lesson I learned was to let my child grieve.  Let her have the time to cry it out and be sad and although hard, don't try to take away that process.  Because it's an essential part to healing as I learned many years ago in health class.  The steps to grief have been listed as:

1. Denial and Isolation

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression/Sadness

5. Acceptance

 And I watched my daughter go through each one of these steps in her own childlike way, I realized it was a life lesson I had to let her experience and couldn't take away from her.  It will make her a more compassionate friend and a stronger child and adult in the world she is trying to make sense of.  Although I wish I could bring back our sweet hamster {okay, maybe not the escapes from her cage}, I am grateful for the experience I had watching her learn how to deal with something sad, but come out of it.  

For that is a life lesson we all need to learn, sooner than later.

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