We only had our hamster, Princess, for about six months before she died. I didn’t realize how attached my 6-year-old daughter had become to our pet. I also didn’t think my daughter would be talking about Princess months after she died. According to KidsHealth, mourning the death of a pet is similar to mourning the death of a person, especially for a child. Until recently, this wasn’t a concept I was familiar with. My daughter is handling it well, but it is obvious that it still bothers her. The following are some things I have done to help my daughter deal with the loss of our pet, as well as some challenges I was faced with.
I listen as she shares memories of our pet
Listening to my daughter share memories of our pet has been hard. I don’t mind listening, but I feel sad knowing my daughter is grieving. However, I don’t let her know that it saddens me, and I do my best to say the right thing. I find myself saying “I’m sorry baby” and “I know” quite a lot. The fact that my daughter is sharing how she feels rather than holding it in, is a good thing. I know this means she is dealing with it in a healthy way rather than repressing her emotions.
We got a new pet
Very soon after our hamster died, we got a pet guinea pig. I wanted a pet that lived longer and wasn’t as delicate. My daughter loves our new pet, Penelope, but I think it makes her think about Princess. When we take Penelope out to play with and feed her, my daughter begins to talk about the hamster. I think getting a new pet was a good idea, but it may have been done too soon.
“Mom, I wish we hadn’t bought Princess that new cage.”
Our hamster died because we purchased her a new cage. She was the cutest, fattest gray bear hamster I’ve ever seen. Well, the new cage had tubes for her to crawl in. The problem was, she got stuck. Somehow, she ended up getting out due to a tube falling off. After searching for several days, I found her lifeless on the side of the refrigerator. Now, when my daughter says, “I wish we hadn’t bought Princess that new cage,” I feel so bad. I tell her I wish we hadn’t either, but we didn’t know what was going to happen. We were trying to do something nice by giving her more room and freedom.
“Mom, Princess is in pet heaven.”
This was the hardest statement for me to deal with. I am a Christian and believe in the Bible. I am not sure if animals go to heaven or not. My mind has not been made up because I don’t feel there is enough information in the Bible. My 12-year-old told my youngest daughter that Princess was in pet heaven. I realize she was trying to help, but I am not happy about how she went about it. My response was, “I don’t know if there is a pet heaven, but if there is, I am sure Princess is very happy.” My 6-year-old believes there is a pet heaven, so this answer seemed to ease her mind.
I did allow my daughter to see me grieve over our pet in the beginning. I moved on faster than my daughter, and immediately getting a new pet was my way of dealing with the loss. It is important to let children know that adults mourn too. When my daughter talks about Princess, I don’t let her know it makes me sad for a different reason. It makes me sad because she is still grieving, and I don’t want her to know that bothers me. I need to help her move on, not make her feel worse. In addition, everyone heals differently, and I don’t want her to think she is abnormal. My daughter is doing well, and I know she will heal in her own time. Princess will always have a special place in our family’s heart.
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