How do you deal with the loss of a family pet? Hopefully you haven’t had to find out but we did recently. We lost our pet rabbit to an accident then her 4 week old baby only 2 days later. I did not want to keep this from the children or sugar coat it. Is is a big deal and I believe everyone, (yes even my children) should get the opportunity to grieve.
I think most people have had to deal with the loss of a pet at some stage in their life, but it becomes a whole different story when it is the loss of the family pet. The kids have seen this pet every day, played with it and had a connection, but now it is gone.
What to tell the kids about the death of a family pet?
I am a strong believer in parenting my children in a respectful way. I have read and researched many parenting books to find the one that would help me to parent my strong willed daughter in a way that feels best to me.
In the Eye to Eye series of parenting books, it is mentioned that if a family pet dies, don’t sugar coat it. Give your child the chance to grieve as well. Don’t just bury the pet and tell them it has gone away, or just buy a new one and pretend that nothing happened.
When you child gets to see it, or you talk about it if the pet is unwell, the child gets to process the information in their own way. They also get to see the good and the bad of owning a family pet. So this is what I did. It was not easy, it is hard to see your children so upset and to know that you caused it, but I feel it is the best in the long run.
When I was unable to find our bunny, I mentioned it to the kids. We went looking for her together and found her wedged under a deck. I cried. The kids cried and we talked about how wonderful she was and how special she was. We also discussed a plan on what to do now. No sugar coating. Just the facts.
We decided to bury her in the garden under one of our trees. It was one of her favourites and when her baby died a couple of days later, we were able to place them together. They looked so peaceful and now the kids know that they can visit the grave anytime they feel the need.
Should you get a replacement pet straight away?
This is a tough one. I did some research on bonded bunnies (dad was left behind) and what the best strategy is. The jury is out. Some say it could be the best thing that you ever did, others say it can go the other way.
So, to be respectful, I asked the kids. Did they want to go get another bunny. The answer was a yes. I rang our local adoption centre and they gave me the same advice so, we went and had a look.
After speaking to the lady at the rescue centre, we decided to hope for the best and brought home an approximately 12 month old female.
She is gorgeous and for us, it was the best thing that we ever did. The dad bunny was extremely happy with our decision and the kids are as well. We still remember our old bunnies and talk about them often, but we have all had time to grieve so there is no emotional charge any more.
We now look at our new bunny and just think that she would not have been in our lives if it were not for the loss of our other one. This is the circle of life.
Have you ever lost a family pet? What did you tell the kids? Leave me a comment below as I would love to hear how it went for you?