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It's the fear that lives at the back of every parent's head from the moment they first get their kids a pet: What are they going to do when that pet dies? Is their kid going to completely lose it? How will they cope? How are the parents supposed to handle something like this?
There are no rules, truthfully, and you really can't blame parents for doing whatever they have to do to get through a pet's death. Maybe there's a right way to do things, maybe there's a wrong way, but the only way that matters is the one that traumatizes your child the least. That's what @taylorraebauer was trying to do when her daughter's bunny died. What did she do? Well, she got the Elf on the Shelf involved.
See, so it's not exactly like she blamed the Elf for the bunny's death...she used the Elf to help cover up the fact that the death even happened. Which, truly, sounds pretty brilliant. Perhaps there's some school of thought somewhere that says you should be honest with kids all the time and face it head on when something like this happens, but that's a lot harder than it sounds. Try telling that angelic little face her bunny died, then see what kind of stories you come up with.
Commenters had lots of stories of replacing the same fish multiple times without their kids knowledge, and stories about pets "going to the vet" and coming back suspiciously different looking. The best, though, was the commenter whose bird died. Her parents couldn't replace it with the same kind of bird, so they got a different breed and said her bird evolved, like a Pokemon.
Hey, you do what you gotta do. It's rough out there.