Our Pet Hamster Died

Dear Mamas,
We have a four-year-old daughter and a one-year-old daughter and yesterday our pet hamster Fluffy died. My inclination was to just throw it in the trash (I always hated it) but wonder if that would be too cold. My older daughter is upset and I’m not sure what to do.
Thanks! Liz

Hi Liz,
Sorry to hear about the death in your family–because even though he was just a lowly hamster, to your older child he was a part of the family, and she will feel the loss and miss him. This is a great opportunity to gently explain that all creatures die one day and that it’s okay.

You can help your older daughter (the younger one won’t get it yet) to deal with this loss by having a little ceremony to say goodbye. Rather than just tossing him in the trash, you can put Fluffy in a small box in some tissue paper and then bury him in the backyard. If your daughter would like to put some stickers on the box or decorate it in some way, that would be fine.

Encourage her to share her feelings about losing Fluffy, whatever they may be, without judgement. No need to say anything like, “Oh well, he was just a hamster.” Respect her feelings, and just allow her the chance to express them.

Then, you and your family can gather in the backyard and say a few words about him like, “Fluffy was a great pet and a really smart and friendly hamster. We will miss him.” If you have a belief in God or an afterlife, you can add something like, “God bless you Fluffy, and we hope you are having a lot of fun in heaven.”

Then, just complete the burial and place a rock or small marker on top, if you want to. A simple little ceremony like this helps your daughter to mark and recognize Fluffy’s passing with honor and dignity. It also gives her a gentle experience of the rituals we use when death occurs.

Good luck Liz.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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