My eldest daughter is freshly 10. This month has been a time of celebration and Harry Potter themed extravagances. If you need to know how to make candles float and keys fly, I am your woman (and you are very welcome to borrow the glue gun).
But the last couple of weeks have also been the time of more sadness and tears than I can remember. For recently, Big Alice lost her beloved guinea pig.
We have had all kinds of reactions to this news. Some have found it comical that we are even mentioning the demise of a small furry pet. Some have been very quick to express the solution of getting something else to take his place. Few have actually known what to say or how to say it when faced with her tearful misery. And lots of friends have been lovely, quick to offer hugs and drawings.
Wiggly Worm (yup, that is what happens when young children name pets) had been in her world for almost 6 years. He was regularly cuddled, fed and looked after by her. She concocted exercise runs for him and delighted in feeding him new exotic foods (last discovery - pomegranate seeds - big hit). He may have been a little pet, but he was a big part of her world, for the majority of her life. He has most definitely left a guinea pig shaped hole in her heart.
She cuddled his little body, all wrapped up in a blanket when she got home (she was at school when he died) and planned a burial ceremony that would have put Tutankhamen to shame (and yes there were pomegranate seeds in there, and all his favourite herbs).
But these following weeks have been really tough. We still have Dashi to care for (my youngest's guinea pig) and that has been bitter sweet. Sometimes the cuddles with him help, and sometimes it is too much for her to handle. We have had lots of talks about how loving someone or some creature a lot, means you grieve for them a lot when they go. The measure of love is loss. If you didn't care, it wouldn't matter. The wave metaphor for grief has been really helpful for her, and on really sad days she comes home and describes 'lots of big waves, mum'.
Making a joyful scrapbook of Wiggly's life has helped her remember how much fun she had, and what a lovely life her guinea pig enjoyed, largely due to her care and interest.
I have asked her if she would rather travel back in time and not have had a pet, thus sparing herself the misery, and her answer was an emphatic NO! I see her heart growing before me, incorporating all these difficult mixed emotions and for the life of me, I wouldn't change what has happened and what she has had to go through.
We have lessons in grief ahead of us, and I am glad that her first one came from a friendly little pet called Wiggly.
Photo credit: A J Burrows Photography