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Children and Dead Pets

Our hamster was 2½ years old.

We bought her the same day Mr M broke his arm.

The same day Miss 5 learned that even adults who ’can’ skate fall over sometimes.

One of the many days we took on Miss 2 in the battled of wills over her winter coat.

The battle of wills over the seatbelt.

The whining.

The day the extent of our ’bribes’ took a whole new turn.

”Let’s just TRY ice skating …You CAN do it! …Everyone falls over sometimes …Come on!

…If you try, …We can go and buy a hamster afterwards!”

– Mr M

 

We’ve talked about the lifespan of a hamster many times.

Sometimes met with an overjoyed ”can we buy a rabbit them?”.

Mostly, with no interest whatsoever.

But she started squinting.

Jumpy, as if surprised we were there, as if she hadn’t heard us coming.

Not sure of her footing as she climbed the sides of the cage.

She fell down.

We moved her to a a new bungalow cage, not wanting her to hurt herself.

She liked exploring that.

But she didn’t seem well.

Miss 7 wanted her in her room.

She took care of her.

She moved some lamps so it wasn’t too bright.

She was offered more treats than ever before.

Her water and food was topped up and replaced every day.

 

We said she was old (for a hamster).

The odd ”can we have a dog then?”

 

Miss 7 came home from school with a friend.

Ran straight upstairs and CRIED!

She definitely wasn’t coming out to greet her.

There was no sound.

We lifted up her little house.

Carefully moved it to the side.

And there she lay curled up in a little ball, cuddled in bedding.

A dead hamster and a heart broken 7 year old.

 

There was no talk of a rabbit or a dog, no indifference, only tears.

She wanted to be alone with her friend.

She wanted to stroke her.

 

When …Or why do do we get freaked out about death?

Nobody was any less willing to stroke her.

To hold her.

…Should you do that?

I don’t know?

Why shouldn’t you?

Why should they not want to touch her?

Why should they feel they should keep a distance?

 

Miss 7, Miss 4, Mr 2, they just wanted to touch her.

She wasn’t cold.

She wasn’t jumpy.

She didn’t look unwell.

 

In the midst of it, Mr 2 learnt to say dead.

You know when a toddler says the same word again and again. Different intonations. Different volumes. Differing reverence! ”DEAD”.

”Dead? …dead …”

More tears.

 

We found a little box.

(One that I put aside months ago for this very moment).

The girls filled the bottom with woodchip and lay a bed of shredded tissue.

They lifted her over.

Nestled her in.

Put on the lid.

 

Our little friends dad came to pick her up.

Of course, he had to see the box.

 

Out with a spade, a stone and the box.

An inscription.

Miss 7 says you HAVE to pray for animals. So we prayed.

Children and dead pets

They were peaceful.

They had shaped what was going to happen, and we did it.

We listened to them.

children and dead pets

…I had hidden MY reluctance to stroke her.

They hadn’t notice.

I didn’t darken their experience of death.

I didn’t make it anything to be scared to touch.

Why? when? What would make me shy away?

I learn from my children.

 

Linking Children and Dead Pets with #WhatstheStory, #TheTruthAbout#Sharewithme & #AnimalTales

 

 

37 Comments

  1. Aw bless. We lost our dog at the end of last year and we were all devastated – I still am a bit. But it teaches children an important lesson about life and death. In reality, it’s not often a human dies who you are as close to as your favourite pet. I know it’s a controversial thing to say, but there are few relatives or friends who are there when I wake up and there when I go to bed at night, and don’t go far from my side all day. If children can cope with a pet dying, they can cope with pretty much everything life has to throw at them.xx

  2. The Mother says – Reading this with a tear in my eye. I think you’ve handled this amazingly and your kids have a healthy attitude towards death but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier. They may just be pets but they’re certainly members of the family xx #animaltales

  3. I think you handled this just right. Death comes to us all in the end and we meet it many times along the way so really we should not be afraid of it or recoil from it. Children, with their open minds are able to teach up this.
    Many thanks for adding this sad, but important tale to #AnimalTales

    • Thanks Rosie, it’s all part of the package isn’t it… But it IS sad.
      The children handled it all beautifully <3

  4. Popping over from Animal Tales =) This brought me back to the loss of my first hamster. My mom wouldn’t let me have one so my uncle got one and let me help take care of it. He lived FOREVER. such a sad say when we lost Chipper. There was a grand funeral with prayer and lots of tears, both myself and my uncle.

    Be sure to share your recipes, crafts, upcycles & DIYs at Two Uses Tuesday (Mon 8pm EST to Fri 11pm EST) over at Sarah Celebrates if you don’t already

    • Ooh, ours too, 2 1/2 years old . I feel like you were there! That’s exactly how it went down here too <3

      I'll definitely pop over and check out your linky 😉

  5. A lovely blog post – it is funny how our attitude to death gets complicated as we grow older. Perhaps it says something about our perception of our own mortality?

  6. sorry it brought sadness to your family, but I have to say, you have found a wonderful way to relate the story and the emotion in that piece. Very much #thetruthabout

  7. We’ve never had pets (my family had cats when I was growing up) – I’m not a big animal kind of person (which seems to be the exception rather than the rule) but I do wonder if the children are missing out on a few life lessons by not having one. Beautifully expressed post – thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X

    • It’s tough isn’t it! I’d love them to have a dog – I have a wonderfully idealistic, romantic image of the whole thing. But I’m not really an animal person either! …I guess we’ll see 🙂

  8. Oh I’m so sorry to hear this 🙁 So hard when your child loses a beloved pet. It’s often their first experience of death and although very sad, does prepare them for the inevitable happening. Sounds like you handled it all very well. x

  9. We went through that about a year ago with my daughter’s hamster, but it feels like yesterday. She still gets sad over it. When she came home from school to her dead hamster she wanted to just pick her up and hold her and pet her, and I was so grossed out I had to leave the room. We gave the hamster a decent burial but I’m so glad that she wanted to handle it, because I don’t think I could have. I don’t know why, come to think of it. I guess I just associate dead animals with disease.
    #thetruthabout

    • It’s tough isn’t it! Why do we get so freaked out I wonder? Miss 7 wanted to fix everything and that was more than fine with me, there was a tiny moment when I wondered if I got a glove, if I could pick her up then …And I still didn’t want to!
      Honestly, I think we did a great job keeping it to ourselves!! It will be interesting to see if our little ones keep thinking this way.

    • Ooh that’s a lot!
      My niece had a hamster, it died only a few weeks after they bought it. They got another, it died again. My sister-in-law spoke with the pet shop and they said she should really scrub out the cage, disinfect it and let it air… The plan was to get another, but my poor little niece just couldn’t take it anymore 🙁
      I hope your hamsters have had long happy lives.

  10. Sorry to hear about the hamster lovely, but it sounds like you all dealt with it marvellously. Death is an unfortunate part of our lives, and I guess pets dying can prepare the kids for the reality of what might come next. That said I’m terrible with death, having fortunately had so Little experience of dealing with it. I know it’s coming soon though as Hubby’s grandparents are pushing 90 and very unwell. Beautifully written, thought provoking post #thetruthabout

    • Thank you x
      So happy you haven’t needed to handle too much death, I wish you many more happy memories with your hubby’s grandparents too <3

  11. It’s always such a sad day when a family pet dies, especially one that really touches the hearts of the children. We’ve had some issues with lambs here on the farm this year and each one has been a bit of a blow to the triplets, they’re learning to get past it now. It’s an important lesson that the kids need to learn and it’s great that you managed to hold back your aversion to death to allow them to grieve how they wanted. I hope they’ve come to terms with it now. Popping in from Magic Moments.

  12. 🙁 I hid my fears of death from the kids with my MIL. They helped me learn then. I am reluctant to get pets because of this but I suppose it is good for them to learn even if it is heartbreaking xx

    • It’s always going to be hard. I realized this evening that when a friend of theirs loses a pet, they’re going to be able to hug them and understand x

  13. Loving and loosing a pet is such a learning curve and at least you let your children learn from this experience. There is so much that we can learn from our children, not fearing death is probably one of them. Is it because they don’t fully understand the finality of it that it doesn’t scare them.

    The first time we had a pet hamster die it all went wrong. He was just over two years old and hadn’t been himself (he’d actually bitten my daughter the day before, which was totally out of character.) My daughter parents were over and I left my daughter with them whilst I popped up and got my son from school. When I got home my daughter who was probably about six or seven at the time, was looking horrified through her tears. She had only got Robbie (the hamster) out to play. She had taken him to my Dad (thinking he was curled up asleep), unfortunately he was stone cold and had obviously died in his sleep. Not a nice experience and a memory that stays with her. We buried him in a little box with some food and hay and she did get another hamster, but these days we stick with dogs….

    • Ooh sweetie! I understand that would have been such a shock.

      I don’t know if it’s because they don’t understand the finality, Miss 4 at least has had multiple episodes of tears in the last 6 months mortified at the thought that I will die some day <3
      It was the total lack of fear at reaching out to touch that surprised me. But then, if they haven't been taught to fear that, or to not do that, I guess ...Why wouldn't they?

    • The whole episode was surreal 🙂 He was too pleased with himself as soon as he understood that he was saying it right <3

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