Ryan returned from taking Claire to school to find Winnie. He called and told me, we sobbed because these little creatures mean a whole lot to us. Then we realized we needed to tell Claire and that this could be a big moment for her and we wanted to do it right.
I read the story about the rainbow bridge, I read a lot of personal accounts but Claire isn't someone that usually fits into what works for everyone so we decided to play it by ear.
After swim and MyGym the three of us sat down on the floor because we had told her we had something important we needed to talk about. Ryan and I locked eyes over her head and i mouthed, "how do we start" and because he is the best, he started.
He let Claire know that we all loved Winnie a lot and that Winnie got sick. She then stood up and asked where she was, "is she in the office". That's when I held her on my lap and let her know that Winnie had died and that we were sorry but she wasn't in the office. Claire literally fell to her knees, said "SHE DIED?!" and laid her head on Ryan's lap and cried for awhile, she said she loved Winnie and that she didn't want her to be sick. We all cried and talked about how its ok to be sad and we will be sad for awhile. We let Claire know what a good job she did and how great she always was with Winnie. How much love she showed and how Winnie knew they were best friends.
Claire stood back up and asked where Winnie was, I was shocked by how she was taking this. She seemed so adult. She said she wanted to see Winnie to be able to say goodbye. We told Claire that Winnie couldn't move anymore and if it was hard to look at her we could come back inside and that was ok.
We had Winnie in her cage out on the patio in case she wanted to do that so we all went out there and sat around the cage. Claire cried in our arms again and then said she wanted to pet her goodbye. She opened the little door reached in and lovingly caressed her and said "goodbye Winnie, I love you". She cried and said she didn't want Winnie to not be able to move and that she wanted a new Winnie.
-sobbing as I type this so if this seems odd that's why I just want to remember everything-
She then hugged us and said she had a surprise for me, so I thought maybe we were moving on for the night but as we held hands and walked to her room, she fell to the floor again and cried that she didnt want Winnie to bed dead. We rocked for awhile and then she was ready to s how me her surprise [she had filled her rewards chart with stickers].
She then asked if we could just eat snacks for dinner and watch a show, of course we could. But first she wanted to go see Winnie again and sit outside. So we sat by the cage and talked. I asked her her favorite thing about having Winnie and she said that it was how they would always say good morning to each other and she was sad because Winnie couldn't say good morning anymore. This is when we both cried together for a pretty long time. I told her we could still say good morning to her and to each other and we can talk about her all the time and remember all the nice things. As we talked a boy walked by with his dogs and I barely noticed but Claire cried out, "his pets didn't die but mine died. But mine died" I couldn't believe that she had put that all together. My baby is almost 4 and she is stronger and more developed emotionally than I had expected. We hugged and talked about how all pets die and that it happens at different times but that we love them as much as we can while they're with us.
She asked for a bunny.
We said good by to Winnie again and then sat inside on the couch, we ate animal crackers and shared an ice cream sandwich for dinner Half way through our snacks she cried again and told us how much she loved Winnie.
I had no idea how this would go, but as heat wrenching as it was watching Claire grieve and process and speak out about all her emotions was something that left us in awe.
The night then went on as usual with the coloring and bed time routine. She is still sleeping now and we'll see how today goes. I reached out to her school and let them know that she might be processing this loss out loud with other students and that they can call us if she is upset.
Ryan loved Winnie so much and I know we are all very sad but this moment felt really big for our family and I am so glad that we were all able to be there together.
If you actually read this, thanks for following along - I havent opened this url in over a year
RIP Winnie Lucille ZumMallen, we all love you. You squeaky silly lady.