Our lives as parents are full of teaching moments. Sometimes we let them pass and sometimes we embrace them. Teaching about loss is one of the most difficult things we approach as parents.
Last August we bought our first pet, a Beta Fish name Ponyo. Kirsten was totally in love with her fish. On Thursday morning we woke up to find that Ponyo had died during the night. We managed to defer her attention from it before school, giving us time to know how to deal with it. Some friends suggested we just replace the fish while she was gone and avoid it, but I knew that was not the answer. I knew that this could be a prime teaching moment for my daughter.
After school I sat her down and we discussed who created us, who created the animals. I put a glove on her hand to demonstrate our body and our spirit. We talked about what happens when we die, that our body goes in the ground and our spirit (the glove) lives on with Heavenly Father. When I was sure we understood this, I told her that Ponyo had died during the night. The onslaught of tears was expected, but still gut-wrenching. We talked about ways to say goodbye. She wrote in her journal all of her favorite things about Ponyo, and why she would miss him. Then she wrote him a letter. We sewed together some flowered fabric to put him in and buried him under the peach tree. We let her say a few words and she put his letter in the ground with him. It was a very emotional day.
Now some may think that this was a little over-done for a fish. That we should have replaced him, or flushed him. But to me, this was more about teaching my daughter. Teaching her about saying goodbye. About the plan of salvation. About the love of our Heavenly Father. How the atonement of our Savior can heal all pain. Those are important lessons that have to be learned through experience. She still has questions, including asking why this was part of the plan. I don't have all the answers for her, but we are able to find them together.
She has asked if we can get another beta and name it Ponyo Junior. I told her as soon as she is ready that we will.