Goodnight Peeka

Saturday saw the untimely demise of Peeka, a friendly brown hen who was given to our granddaughter as a birthday gift on her second birthday.  Peeka was an education for a small child on how to look after a living creature and to understand where her favourite food, eggs, came from.

We do have other hens; our little one will not be without free range eggs for her breakfast.  But we still have some explaining to do.

Gramps’ idea was to go buy another brown hen and quickly.  Mummy thought we could maybe say she’s flown away.  Granna thinks we should be honest and take the opportunity that this poor dead hen presents us with, which is a chance to talk about death in a matter of fact way using appropriate language for a 4-year old.

Three weeks ago I took our little lady to a wooden play park in a small village nearby, which is right next to the village church.  Once she had exhausted the need to climb and swing, we headed over to the church for a look inside.  Sadly, the door was locked; a sign of the times.  Instead we wandered around the churchyard and my granddaughter asked lots of questions about the headstones, and what the wording on them said.  All of this culminated in us having a conversation about the people these headstones were for, and what might have happened to them.  And we talked about history as some of the dates on them were from two and three centuries ago.  I stopped short of explaining that the actual bodies were buried there.

In the car on the way home I had more questions to answer as I had expected.  She asked how old we have to be to die.  And what happens to us?  Where do we go?  I replied as honestly as I could without breaking her heart or scaring the living daylights out of her.  I was also conscious of the fact that I was treading on territory that her own mother, my daughter, might approach completely differently.

So, this child has a little bit of knowledge about death already, although none of it will make much sense until she loses someone or something close to her that she really cares about.  Like Peeka.

I hold the view that it would be better for her to cut her teeth on the sadness and grief of losing a chicken, and getting to grips with the reality of death at this point, and understanding that a hen does not live as long as a human being anyway, rather than finding herself in completely unknown and terrifying human death territory in the future.

And that’s not to say that Peeka is just a “mere” chicken, to be dismissed without care.  This little brown hen holds a very special place in our granddaughter’s heart.  We will have to tread carefully whichever way it’s dealt with.  It’s a tough one.

I would welcome readers’ thoughts on this issue.

Brown Hens
Brown Hens

 

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22 thoughts on “Goodnight Peeka

  1. Yes, this is a really difficult thing to handle. Losing poor Peeka reminds me of a time when my kids were much smaller. We had just moved down to the country and bought 3 hens. The kids adored them. Then about a week later a mink broke into their house and killed them all. I couldn’t bring myself to tell them, so I lied and said they had flown away?? As they have got older, I have learned to be more honest about the death of animals, and sadly like all of us, they have now encountered the deaths of people close to the family.

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  2. That’s a hard one for sure, but if you and your daughter can come up with a plan to gently tell her the truth, and talk about how to honor Peeka’s memory. Maybe a favorite way to remember Peeka and the happy times, so that she can have some closure. that might help her cope with future sadness that eventually comes as our beloved pets leave us.

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  3. Losing an animal or someone you love is never easy, especially when you’re little and unaware of how it all works. One of the hardest things I had to do is tell my sons that their grandpa died when they were 5 and 7. It tore me up that they had to experience that heartache at such a young age. Like you said, it’s a tough one but it sounds like you will tread lightly and love her through it all.😊

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    1. Yes, death is one of life’s conundrums to be sure. An unavoidable one though. At a time of loss we need our family and friends to support us. It’s especially difficult for children because they have no previous terms of reference. I can only imagine how you must have felt having to tell your children such awful news. Thank you for the reply.

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  4. Oh, I agree that you should have told her the truth about Peeka. Children should not be sheltered entirely from sickness and death. I always took my grandson to a nursing home to visit a friend that he knew also. Death and illnesses are a part of life.

    Thank you so much for choosing to follow my humble blog!

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    1. Firstly I love your blog. And I very much appreciate your comments. I take my granddaughter to a nursing home regularly to see my own mother, who has quite advanced dementia. I agree that children should not be sheltered from illness. She adores her great grandma, and it does my mother the world of good to see our little one. Part of this whole process is about that if I’m honest. My mother is deteriorating swiftly; no-one knows how long she has left to live. I firmly believe that the truth is ultimately the kindest way.

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  5. It’s so hard, isn’t it. I was always direct and honest with my daughter about everything, including my views on the finality of death. As a result we all feel able to shed tears for pets as well as people (she’s lost all her great grandparents now too). It doesn’t really get any easier for any of us, of course, but she has the certain knowledge now that the extreme pain passes and that she can think of them with joy after a while. Very sorry about Peeka though – we’ve lost three hens already this year and they’re such brave little things. Thinking of you all

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  6. The very first time I faced the sadenss related to an important loss was when my cat died so I compleately understand the feeling. I was 15 and my sister 12, she felt even worst than me since it was hers. Unfortunately, it has been a really unexpected event, we were all shocked and even my parents couldn’t give an explanation but I think that both me and my sister understood that feeling and in a small way how to deal with it – in order to be prepared for worse losses in the future, even if you’re never compleately prepared. It’s not your fault, it’s not someone’s fault, it’s nature and how life goes… of course a 4 year-old can’t realize this compleately but I’m sure this moved something in her. So yes, I think being honest in this situations is the best option.

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  7. Hi Suzy, I agree with being honest about death. I speak from the experience of having to tell my 6 and 8 year old that their father had died (after they had helped care for him for 3 years). I dreaded how I was going to say it, but in the end I just said it gently and plainly (perhaps it helped that they had already had pets die before).
    I also speak from the experience of not being honest with my then 4 year old about the death of her dog (I told her it had had to go and live with a kind lady – I can’t remember why I said this was for) and it has always bothered me that I did that.
    Death comes with no warning – I would take it as a way to answer her questions, and you may be surprised on how accepting she is (my girls certainly surprised me) although this is perhaps because the young really cannot yet understand the finality of death.
    Respect should be given to the truth of death, why would we wish to lie about something that is one of our ultimate truths in life?
    Just my opinion.
    hugs

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  8. I know this post isn’t about the photo – but I sure love the photo. I love all of your photos 🙂 I am so sorry for the heart break you have to deal with. 😦 I wish life wasn’t full of hurts.

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