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How To Tell A Child That A Beloved Guinea Pig Has Died?

Discussion in 'Guinea Pig Chat' started by Carrotyd, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. Carrotyd

    Carrotyd Junior Guinea Pig

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    Hello all. Lloyd, the piggy on the left in my profile picture, passed away overnight after a very brief and rapid illness, leaving behind his best buddy and cage-mate, Harry.

    While the pair of them belong to me, I have many nieces and nephews who are also very much invested in the boys' care, to the point they consider Harry and Lloyd their pets too.

    In light of Lloyd's passing, my sister has asked me for some pointers on how best to break the news to them, in a way that will help them understand what's happened, while minimising the risk of causing them any undue distress and anxiety in the days that follow.

    I don't have any children, and this is the first time I've ever had to deal with a piggy bereavement, so I'm at a bit of a loss about how best to suggest she approach this.

    Therefore, I wondered if anyone on the forum might have some pointers or top tips on how to deal with breaking the news about a dearly beloved pet passing away to little ones?
     
  2. GPcrazy

    GPcrazy Junior Guinea Pig

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    How old are the children?
    With young children (5 and under as I base this on my son), I find it best to just say it as it is. Like "I got some very sad news from XYZ, she told me that Lloyd the guinea pig died last night". They might then ask why and you just say "he got very sick. Unfortunately, because guinea pigs are so small, when they get very sick their bodies are not always strong enough to fight the bugs, and so sometimes they die".

    Kids struggle more wth innuendos and beating around the bush and saying things subtley than they do with facts.
    So best is to keep it simple and say iy like it is. Chances are they will look sad, say "I'm going to miss Lloyd", and then run off and play.
     
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  3. Carrotyd

    Carrotyd Junior Guinea Pig

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    Sorry - I should have included their ages in the original post. They're all under 7 years old, and the youngest is 4.

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and share your experience on how to deal with this.
     
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  4. Tiny

    Forum Donator 2016/17

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    I've not been in this situation, thankfully, but my mums dog died when my niece was 2 years old, my niece was very fond of Zac and it was her first experience of loss so my mum was worried how to break this. She said he'd gone to play in the stars, and to look for the twinkliest star and that was where he was. (They're not religious, so it wasn't heaven per se, but my niece was fascinated by stars at that age). I think my mum was more upset at the conversation than my niece! My niece is 7 now and understands illness, age and passing a lot more now. I think kids are quite resilient, and I think staying close to the truth, if the child can cope with the info, is good. It's very dependant on the age and emotional maturity of the child I guess.
     
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  5. Malice

    Forum Donator 2015/16

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    I was eight when my first piggy, Diamond, passed away (she was only three!) and I still remember my mum telling me. She had died while I was at school (dad worked from home so had told my mum by this point). Mum drove me home from school and we were sat in the car on the driveway, so that I knew before I went in. She just started with 'I've got some bad news' and I responded with 'Diamond died, didn't she?' (she had been very ill) and mum mum just nodded and gave me a big hug. It wasn't a particularly verbal exchange.

    Afterwards, mum and dad bought me a 'fairy door' and attached it to my skirting board. The packaging said something along the lines of when you're not looking the door allows friends to come in and play; it meant fairies and other fantasy creatures, but my parents told me it would allow Diamond (and later her sister, Crystal) to come and visit me even if I couldn't see them. I still have that door somewhere.
     
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  6. Freela

    Freela Adult Guinea Pig

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    I've been here before, it's so hard to give news to kids that you know is going to hurt them. Actually, some of the worst parts of my pet losses since having kids is the anticipation of having to give bad news to my kids and see them hurting.

    Assuming that the child is old enough to understand what death means, I tend to be pretty honest. I've just said that the guinea pig was very sick, and much as we tried to help her get better she was too sick to recover and she died. The generally we both have a big cry (except for my middle child, who is very stoic and tends not to display much emotion.) I've also let the kids be part of having a funeral and memorializing the pet in some way, whether it's by putting something at the grave, by writing a song or poem, by putting up a picture of the pet, etc.

    Kids are resilient but it's also evident that our pets have touched them deeply and that the experience stays with them... several months after one of our pigs, Linney, died, my youngest wrote a beautiful song about her that brought me to tears (about how Linney was her best friend and now she's gone.) She in particular adores the animals and I know she will remember the pigs for a long time. My kids also talk about past pets fairly often, though by now it's good memories and not sadness. When I look back, I can remember all my childhood pets, what they looked like, little particularities about them, and when/how they died. They do take a permanent place in our hearts.

    Some parents choose not to be truthful about a pet's passing and instead say that the pet ran away, was rehomed, is at the vet, etc. I have friends who have done this but I have never done it myself. I guess I always felt they deserved a chance to mourn. When they were much older, my kids found out they had also been taken in by a lie like this with a family friend's hamster, who 'hibernated at the vet' until she woke up and came home (in reality, who died and was replaced by a very similar-looking hamster once the parents found one.) They also found out that a different friend's fish lived so long because it was actually several different fish (when one died, mom would remove the tank to 'clean it' and replace the fish.) They were actually really miffed that they were fooled and made me swear I would not 'replace' pets with look-alikes or otherwise be dishonest about it, so I never will, but I can't judge that some parents choose to do this to spare a child pain.
     
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  7. GPcrazy

    GPcrazy Junior Guinea Pig

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    One also has to be careful with using language like "they've gone to play in the stars" or even "they've gone up to heaven" because kids don't realise it's permanent and then days and weeks later they can't understand why the animal (or person!) doesn't come back.
    Keeping it simple and saying they've died makes it much easier for them to understand. The easier it is to understand the easier it is to accept.
     
  8. Tiny

    Forum Donator 2016/17

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    @GPcrazy We said Zac was up in the stars because my niece was only just 2, very sensitive and, given her age, had no real understanding of permanence. The decision to tell the stars story was very much based on her cognition and personality, and I should point out it was never intended to be permanent (i.e. she gets to 25 and still thinks he's in the stars :))). As she grew up, we did talk about Zac a lot and she was told the truth when she was more able to understand the physical and emotional complexity of death (something gone forever is really difficult for a small child to grasp!). She's now 7 and quite an existential madam - very much into 'where we go', the planets and aliens :)
     
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  9. Freela

    Freela Adult Guinea Pig

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    Very young kids don't understand permanence or that death is an irreversible state no matter what you tell them, I think. I can remember my 3-year-old helping to bury one of our pigs when she died, and then the next day coming to me and saying, "Can we bring Frenzy back inside now?" She didn't understand the cause-and-effect yet and was hung up on the idea that Frenzy was gone because we buried her, not that we buried her because she had died.
     
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  10. Freela

    Freela Adult Guinea Pig

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  11. Tiny

    Forum Donator 2016/17

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    @Freela My niece would ask for Zac and we'd say he was gone, she'd say "In the rubbish?" because that was her limited understanding and knowledge of things that go away and don't come back :)
     
  12. VickiA

    VickiA Moderator
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    I think you have to know the children and then decide how best to tell them. I doubt that there's one right or one wrong way of doing it.
    My lads have grown up in a house of small feathered and small furry creatures. This means that even when they were very young they were exposed to pets that were poorly and pets that died. I made the mistake once when they were very young of telling them that the vet couldn't make the budgie better, that the vet had " put him to sleep" and I had left him at the vets. I told them and showed them how sad I was about this and we cleaned out the empty cage and put it in the loft. A few days later one of the lads asked me when we were going ask the vet to wake him up and collect him. Cue more tears from me and the lesson learned that with my lads the most direct and scientific explanation was best. The next pet that was PTS was brought home and we had a ceremonial stroking and burial. I'm not suggesting that's right for all children. One of my lads has always wanted a proper explanation from us about everything and for him it was right.
     
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  13. GPcrazy

    GPcrazy Junior Guinea Pig

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    Definitely seems different kids understand different things because direct and simple has always worked best with my son, but I do understand all kids are different. I think you instinctively have an idea of what your own child will understand so always bet to trust your gut.
     

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