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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Seeing your child grieve over the loss of a pet is heartbraking

Graci and Randi with their hamsters in 2013
Every other week my two girls have to clean their hamster's cages. I usually have to remind my girls to clean the cages. This week -after a reminder- the girls brought their cages out of their bedrooms and got the supplies ready to clean. 

But, when my 11 year-old daughter, Randi, went to take her hamster out of the cage, it was lifeless. My husband and I heard a scream and then tears just started flowing down her face. Little Chester was dead.  It was heartbreaking to see my daughter so sad. She had her hamster for more than 3 years, which is longer than it was expected to live. Still she wasn't ready for her pet to die.

Graci, who is 10, was also upset Randi's hamster died. Graci tried to make Randi feel better and offered her hamster to her and said she would still clean the cage. It didn't make Randi feel any better, but it was so sweet to see the interaction of the two as one grieved for her pet and the other because she felt bad that her sister was hurting.

Graci and I hurried and cleaned the cages. I got Randi's hamster cage cleaned and out of sight. We didn't want Randi to keep thinking about it. We had a funeral for little Chester and buried him in the back yard. Randi was still grief stricken. The passing of Chester brought back memories of other pets that had passed away.

Before the two girls were born, my husband and I had a black Labrador. He was the girls first pet and he passed away from cancer when the girls were 5 and 6 years old.  It was devastating to the family especially to Randi and Graci. They cried for weeks and still cry every now and then. It was hard because we didn't know he was sick. The cancer came so fast and he was gone within a week.

Our dog wasn't the first pet to die. The girls both had Beta fish. The fish was the first pet the girls had ever had die, so as you can imagine it was quite traumatic seeing the fish on top of the water floating. I think the girls were around 3 or 4 when that happened. Sometimes I wish I would have seen it floating before they did, so I could have just changed out the fish and avoided the sadness, but I know they have to deal with death and I can't make it better all the time.   
Recently both of my daughter's have been asking to get a bunny. When the hamster died, my first reaction was to get Randi the bunny so she wouldn't be sad. My husband said a bunny right now isn't a good idea because she needs to grieve and not think that if something dies or something happens you can replace it easily with something else. 
I  agree. We can't just replace something with something else right away. When our dog died we waited a few months before getting another dog. I know dogs are different than hamsters, but dealing with the loss of any kind of pet is hard for kids.
I hate seeing my daughter sad, but time seems to heal the pain. In the case of the hamster, Randi didn't expect her hamster to live much longer than it did.

As a parent, I don't want to see my child go through any pain and suffering, but I also know it's inevitable. I could just not let my kids have any pets and we wouldn't have to worry about a pet dying, but than they would  miss out on the joy a pet can bring to them.

And I know my kids couldn't imagine their life without their pets, even though they've had to say goodbye to a few of them. It's all part of the circle of life.

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