Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How To Help Kids Say Goodbye To A Pet

I was in my daughter's room hanging up clothes in her closet. And that's when I noticed him on the floor of his cage. Not moving.

I swallowed. My heart squeezed.

"Pumpkin," I said. "Pumpkin, please don't do this."

I peered in the cage and tapped it a bit. This normally wakes him up but this time? This time he didn't move. His body remained still.

I swallowed again. A lump had formed in my throat.

"Pumpkin?" I tried again, knowing the truth. He was gone. I took a deep breath and headed downstairs to where my daughter Natalie was. I'd like to say that I pulled her aside and gave her a meaningful talk about life and death like what happens on Full House. But instead I burst into tears and went, "I'm so sorry Natalie, but Pumpkin died."





"What?" She had been eating and immediately leaped up from the table. "What? Pumpkin, no!" She rushed up the stairs, taking two at a time. I heard her go into her room. "Pumpkin! Pumpkin, please!"

That set me off even more. I hate to see my kids upset. It's like someone has reached in and squeezed my heart as hard as they possibly could.

Meanwhile, my husband was on the couch having a snack, and he was bewildered. He had a daughter shouting upstairs, and a wife in tears.

"Pumpkin died and I don't know what to do," I said as tears dripped down my cheeks.

"It'll be okay," Tom said, standing up, setting his plate aside. "I'll get my shovel. It'll be okay."

"Pumpkin! Pumpkin!" Natalie shrieked from upstairs.

I knew I should be with her, so I went to her room, and she had the cage open and was petting Pumpkin.

"I'm so sorry," she wailed. "I'm so sorry this happened to you, Pumpkin."

It wasn't her fault though. Pumpkin had been breathing funny for about a week and I knew he must be sick. I just hoped he would pull through.

"I'm sorry," I cut in.

Natalie sniffled. "I loved him so much." She pressed her face into my stomach and I stroked her hair.

Some people might say, "Oh, it was a hamster, those things never last long," but you know, he was part of the family. My daughter took good care of him.

Here's what we did to make the process easier.





1. We allowed Natalie all the time she needed to say goodbye.  She talked to him for a bit and said that she loved him very much.


2. Natalie carried the body to the grave. Obviously this isn't always possible, and yes, make sure your child washes their hands afterwards. But it can give them closure. Natalie carefully set the body into the hole.


3. Let the kids bury something with the pet. My daughter didn't want Pumpkin to be alone, so she placed some of his bedding around him. She also added a few of his favorite treats. It made HER feel better, and that's important.


4. Allow your child to grieve. It can be hard. Just remind them that you'll always be there to talk. Maybe it was just a goldfish that passed. But it still meant something to your child. So let them have their tears.




5. Let them have a funeral and say something for the pet. My husband dug the hole, but Natalie set her hamster in it. Before he was buried, she said some words about him. "You were a sweet hamster and never bit me. I love you."




6. Do not rush into a new pet to quickly. Some people might think this is a quick way to heal, but I think it's important to grieve a current pet properly.





Natalie is doing better. She still misses Pumpkin and helped me clean out his cage. Maybe we'll get a new hamster one day. Maybe not. She still goes to his grave and leaves a flower or a piece of chalk on it. (To add color.) The other day she went, "I had a dream that Pumpkin was in the clouds running with all the other hamsters who died. He was happy. So I'm happy. And I'm always remember him."






Have you ever had to say goodbye to a pet? 

44 comments:

  1. <3 This breaks my heart and these are such great tips. There is no perfect way to deal with this type of situation but these can definitely ease the hardship of it.

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  2. AWww so sorry to hear that Pumpkin has gone. Big hugs to Natalie xx

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  3. This is extremely heart touching. Sorry to hear that Pumpkin has gone.

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  4. A few years ago I had to say goodbye to my pet dog, Spike. I didn't find him not moving, but I had to bring him to the humane society to put him down as he was really suffering. It was really difficult for me to hand him over to euthanize.

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  5. Sorry for your family loss. Hard to loose any pet. All good ideas to help your daughter get over the loss

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  6. OMG I love this post. It is so so so sad but I remember my mom doing ALL of these things when my critters died and it really does help kids <3 It's so sad that part of having a pet (even a small one) has to be saying goodbye eventually but it definitely helped me grow over the years and become more accepting of that fact. Rest in peace pumpkin!

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  7. We do love our pets, our furry family members gain more of our love then we realize at times. Losing a pet is never easy and it sounds like you handled the situation sensitively.

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  8. So sorry about your loss, and Natalie's as well. We lost our dog but somehow the kids got through it super easily. The tips you give here are great though.

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  9. So sorry for the loss of your daughter's pet. We kept the classroom gerbil one year and sadly he didn't make it. I discovered him before the kids and so I took him to the pet store and replaced him with one that looked just like him. I didn't have the heart to tell the kids. I guess I'll share with them one day... when they're much, much, much older.

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  10. We had a dog who died from cancer. She was very much my daughter's dog. While she couldn't help put her in the grave, we did have a funeral and bury things with her. I still miss that dog.

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  11. It is so very hard to say goodbye to our four-legged family members. I still mourn the loss of the first dog my husband and I shared. He was as much of a part of the family as our own children.

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  12. It is always hard to say goodbye to a pet. It is obvious that she loved her pet so much. My kiddo has been through to pet deaths and it's not easy. I think what you did was exactly right. She needs her way to grieve.

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  13. Saying goodbye to a pet is hard. I'm so sorry for her and you all. Everyone needs to grieve and I think you did what was right by her.

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  14. What a tough subject. Pets are loved members of the family and they leave us so soon. Teaching our children about grief and loss is so important, and yet so sad.

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  15. Pets are family and it's tough to lose them. I think it's really nice what you did for Natalie and how you helped her grieve. We lost a fur baby last year and it completely broke our hearts.

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  16. Ahhhh, I got really teary eyed reading this. I'm so sorry for her loss, but you guys did so good by her. It sounds like you all really loved Pumpkin and you honored that cute little hamster (seriously cute) in the best way you could.

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  17. Aw.. I'm so sorry. He was SO cute. And I'm not a hamster person but he looked adorable.
    We have had to say goodbye to a pet and it's really hard. Thanks for sharing the tips.

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  18. This is heartbreaking, but you guys really handled it well. Thank you for sharing tips on how to deal with this.

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  19. These are excellent tips, and not just for kids! So sorry about your pet.

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  20. Losing a pet is never an easy thing even as an adult. However, with kids, it truly is SO hard to see them go through the loss of something they love.

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  21. Your poor daughter! I hope she feels better soon. Losing a pet you are close to is no joke, especially as a kid. Your tips were great!

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  22. This is sweet, it reminds me of an episode of The Cosby Show when they had a funeral for their pet fish. We’ve only had fish die but the kids weren’t too attached.

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  23. I couldn't agree more on what you listed. Definitely loosing a pet break a kid's heart and probably their first heartbreaks during their years. Letting them have some time to grief is important and letting us know we are always there is the best thing to do.

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  24. This is so hard to imagine. Our dog is such an important member of our family. I am not prepared for the day my children will have to deal with losing their beloved pet!

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  25. Oh my goodness I got a lump in my throat reading this. I remember when my family's childhood dog died - I cried for weeks. It felt like a knife to the heart. I'm so, so sorry Natalie (and your family) is going going through this. Sending you lots and lots of love XOXO

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  26. This breaks my heart. We had a couple of fish that passed and I had a hard time with that. I can't imagine breaking the news with a bigger pet.

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  27. This is absolutely heart breaking. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is never ever easy.

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  28. Oh no! This is such a hard topic to handle. I t is never easy to see a beloved pet die

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  29. No matter what pet you have, it's never easy to say goodbye. I think you did exactly what Natalie needed to get through this. You are such amazing parents!

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  30. The finality of death which comes to all living beings is so poignant. When pets die and one needs to talk to kids it requires a lot of sensitivity. You and your husband talked and comforted Natalie so wisely.

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  31. OH NO! Poor little pumpkin! I remember reading your post when your family first got him! So sorry that Natalie is going through this! Such a hard topic to discuss.

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  32. I am so sorry for everyone's loss. Burying and saying goodbye to an animal is my least favorite thing in the world to do with a kid involved.

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  33. Oh gosh I am so sorry to read about Pumpkin. Losing a pet is so hard, I know my son was devastated when our dog died.

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  34. Oh, a very sad story. I had a dog with which I grew up. She died at the age of 16 and although I was 24 years old I was extremely heavy. Children hardly understand these moments and suffer extremely. Most people do not know how to help the children at this time. Thank you for the exclusive article! It can be very useful.

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  35. I know we have lost so many different pets over time but my daughter has only lost one. We did much like you did with the grave and grieving. I think putting up a stone marker there for her helped a lot too.

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  36. It's so hard to say goodbye to a pet.

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  37. I remember when i was young, we lost our cat and it was super hard, especially to me. SO hard that i was not even able to burry him. it's always hard to say goodbye

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  38. I've never had a pet because my parents won't allow. It is really important to let them grieve and have their time. It's easier to move forward that way.

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  39. My family only owned pet fish and my mom killed them all! LOL it wasnt much of a grieving process but this is good info for parents with empathetic kids who were close to their pets.

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  40. We named our cat Pumpkin, he passed as well. He’s not the first pet in the house to have passed and each time is it’s own little sad moment. We haven’t burried our pets though. How thoughtful to let your family put an item or two with the pet.

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  41. Ah I just cannot imagine having the deal with it. It was hard enough for me - thanks your your wonderful tips.

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  42. Ah, it's one of the saddest feelings to deal with. These are great tips to follow and consider.

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  43. So sorry for your loss, we lost a hamster a couple of years ago and it was hard for all of us - especially my youngest.

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  44. This is surely a tough one. Not all kids find it easy letting go, not even all the steps above sometimes takes time to yield and help them heal.

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Thanks for the comment!

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