The child and dealing with the loss of a pet

When my mom passed away last year, I was ready to deal with the grief, not only my own, but what I thought I would have to deal with from The Princess.  She is a very emotional child, and was fairly close to my mother.  I was rather surprised, though sad, she did not break down nearly as much as I anticipated. (I on the other hand, despite having mentally prepared myself, was no where near as stoic as I thought I would be).  So, I guess in a way I was lucky that I didn’t have much to do in this situation, but I felt prepared for it.

For the third time though in three years, we lost a pet.  In 2010, it was our first hamster, Rufus.  This was the first time since my father’s passing in 2004, and probably the first time that The Princess was truly cognizant of loss and the true permanence of it.  I was in no way prepared for such event, and while I tried to comfort her as best I could, I had no idea what to really say to make it any easier.  We found a nice box that was originally intended for some old craft project of mine.  She decorated it, and we buried Rufus beneath the Scotch Brush in the yard.  We sort of lucked out in a way, and a friend offered her another Hamster (Mousey).  Mousey was far more friendly than Rufus ever was, and this helped and sort of bailed TheWife and I out… at the time.

Late last year, it came time, and we needed to say good-bye and put to sleep our dog Sweetie.  Sweetie was old, and she had been having problems, and The Princess sort of understood and wasn’t caught off guard when the day came.  We spent the morning with her, we gave her extra treats and extra love and had a chance to say good-bye.  And I thought that would make it easier… and maybe to a certain extent it did, but she was still devastated   Actually more than I originally realized.  And she actually put some of the blame on TheWife and I for the decision.  I found this out when one of her dance teachers informed me that The Princess had been talking about her dog and told another child in the class that her parents, “had my dog whacked.”  Wow.  Clearly, did not do as good a job in dealing with this loss as I thought or hoped.

Yesterday, as we were getting The Princess ready for bed (timing is everything, isn’t it?), we knew something was wrong.  Mousey, who always awoke looking for a snack at bedtime, was not stirring.  She looked in the cage.  And she knew.  But hoping against hope, she reached into the cage to try and wake Mousey up.  But she was gone.   Needless to say the hysterics began.

Now you would think after having gone through this twice before, I would be ready.  And you would be completely wrong.  I let her cry  it out.  I tried to console her, but each comment was met with a retort.  First I pointed out the typical lifespan of a hamster.  She quickly point out that everybody told her that the goldfish she won a carnival in the first grade would not last long.  And dammit is she isn’t right, here we are in the 7th grade and the goldfish is still going strong (knock on wood).  I mentioned the possibility of a “Mousey Jr.” which only made her declare that she is not sure that she could handle going through this again.  And she caps it off with, “I thought 2012 was going to be a good year!  Why does everything I love keep dying?”  I hugged her, held her.. and realized… I am still not prepared to deal with this.

This time I found a cigar box with an angel on it, and I made some bedding, put Mousey in it.  ThePrincess asked me to add her favorite chew block and snack in the box, which of course I did.  We went out in the early morning hours, and we had a brief funeral for Mousey.  We tried to keep it upbeat, and talked about the fun time, the fact that she was quite the escape artist, and how fortunate considering her mad escape skills, that we were able to enjoy having her in our family for the past two years.  Mousey is now buried next to Rufus under the Scotch Brush.  And we were able to get through it.

But I still don’t know how to help her deal with this.  Or if there really is something I can do.  I am the type of person that when something is wrong, I like to fix it.  And the reality is, this is one situation that no matter how hard I try, cannot be truly fixed.


  1. Such a touching post, my friend. You are right, there are just some things that we parents cannot fix (no matter how hard we want to) and that totally stinks.

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