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Saying a final goodbye to a pet and helping children with grief

We have had a bereavement this week and our hearts are broken.
Two months ago, a local rescue reached out looking for a loving retirement home for some elderly guinea pigs. Sadly but perhaps understandably, wannabe owners want babies or younger animals so Phyllis and Mabel and other ‘old ladies’ had been left in the rescue which was then unable to offer homes to others. I immediately offered to take the oldest guinea pigs, and Phyllis and Mabel joined our herd of girls.

Phyllis deteriorated quickly last week and I knew that the kindest action was to put her to sleep. But being the right thing barely makes it any easier…
Grief is the price we pay for love. Phyllis may have only been part of our lives for 2 months but she was family. She enjoyed oh so many cuddles and in the last week had extra special love and care to try to improve her health.
Our children have already experienced losing a pet (our beloved Ollie the collie in 2022) but it doesn’t make it any easier. We were able to prepare the children for both Ollie and Phyllis’ deaths as they could see that they were beginning to struggle and suffer. Therefore, they were able to say goodbye and did not have the shock of an unexpected death that requires extra consideration.
It helps to answer questions as openly as possible whilst also being mindful of the age of the children. A first experience of death may raise concerns about other family members dying so it is best to allow children to explore their feelings and voice their worries. Don’t be afraid to show your own emotions or cry in front of your children.
It sounds like a cliche but time really is a great healer. There is no time limit on grief and we all process it in our own way and at our own pace. Life moves on and death is as natural a part of the life cycle as birth. Celebrate the happy memories. Discussing the seasons can help with difficult explanations too.
We have decided to have a pet photo wall which will also act as a memorial to our deceased friends as time progresses. Together we will look for photos and share memories about those we have loved and lost.
Sending lots of love to those of you who are also grieving for a furry companion. Lx

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