When a young child loses their loved stuffed animal, it can seem like the end of the world for them. Child psychologist Eleanor Mackey recalls the time when her daughter lost her lovey and gives tips to cope with a child’s lost lovey.

My daughter was attached to her bunny lovey since she was about 8 months old. When we saw her getting attached, we ordered one replacement and then another, but she could distinguish among them (even when we couldn’t), and the original one was always prized.

She loved her “Smiling Bunny,” or as we referred to its fraying smile as “Sad Bunny,” and it went with her everywhere. I know many families make a “lovey stays in the house” policy to avoid this very catastrophe, but for us, having her friend come with her where she went was good for our daughter.

Smiling Bunny comforted our daughter when she was upset, celebrated with her when she was happy, and helped her through many transitions. She was the first thing our daughter looked for in the morning and Smiling Bunny always slept closest to our daughter through the night. She was also our daughter’s alter ego, and when we would tell her “no” she would say, “But Smiling Bunny says it’s okay!”

Our catastrophe happened one weekend when our daughter must have dropped Smiling Bunny on the street when we were getting her into the car. We realized it when we got home and immediately went back, but Smiling Bunny was gone. I put up fliers, posted to neighborhood listserves, searched the area myself for hours and even called the city trash, but nothing turned up our little friend.

Tips for coping with a lost lovey

My heart broke for my little girl and thinking about how hard it would be for her to lose her lovey. She surprised me by taking it well. We sprang into action and below are a few things we did that seemed to help.

  • We told her that we had dropped Smiling Bunny and another little girl saw her and needed a bunny so she took her home. Our daughter announced she was proud that she was sharing Smiling Bunny.
  • We asked if our daughter wanted a new Smiling Bunny. This made her excited so we went to the store and let her choose.
  • To welcome the new Smiling Bunny we had our daughter help us make cupcakes and we invited some friends over for a party to welcome our new family member.
  • We asked our daughter if she wanted a picture of her old Smiling Bunny so we framed one and put it in her room.
  • We were also told that having our daughter dictate letters to Smiling Bunny and having her write back could be fun.

It’s important to strike a balance between remembering and moving on, which is why we let our daughter guide this. When she talked about her old Smiling Bunny, we would listen. We referred to the new Smiling Bunny in exactly the same way as the old one and kept her focused on her new friend as well.

As sad as this was, it was also a good way to help a child learn to cope with loss. Teaching a child how to appropriately grieve and then move on can be a skill they take with them for life. As a parent, tolerating my child’s sadness was challenging but also a good lesson that she’s more resilient than I thought.

For good books for children, the Knuffle Bunny series by Mo Willems is excellent when dealing with the subject of a lost lovey.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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