Serious post time, guys.
In my most recent post, I quickly mentioned our dog, Chloe, is sick. Well, Chloe is a little sicker than I really wanted to get into, and I’m still not quite getting into it here, either. The bottom line, as with all pets headed for the big dog/cat treat in the sky, is that she’s sick and not getting any better.
Last night, I was up very late reading article after article about explaining the loss of a pet to children and toddlers. There is a LOT of information and opinions out there. Some of them were a little too religious for me, some too lavish, some too passive, but some were really helpful. After hours and hours of searching, reading, thinking, tearing up, and processing, here’s what I came up with:
Religious families can allow children to seek solace by explaining that Fido/Fluffy is happy and playing in doggie/kitty Heaven (with passed loved ones if you want to get into that).
Non-religious families could try key phrases like “Not here anymore” or “in a happier place”.
Anyone looking for a different approach, assuming you have the advance notice, can pick up a copy of The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages.
“This story by Leo Buscaglia is a warm, wonderfully wise and strikingly simple story about a leaf names Freddie. How Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter’s snow, is an inspiring allegory illustrating the delicate balance between life and death.” (Amazon.com)
Either way, all or most of the articles recommended letting the toddler know that it’s okay to feel sad, and that you are sad, too. Don’t be upset if your kid isn’t crying his/her eyes out over the news, and don’t get mad if your kid asks over and over where Fido/Fluffy is or when they’re coming back. Death and “forever” are REALLY tough concepts for young kids to understand.
Oppositely, almost all the articles I read were diligent in reminding readers to avoid terms like “went to sleep and won’t wake up”, “said goodbye and isn’t coming back”, and “put to sleep”, because they could possible make a small child weary of going to bed, or saying bye-bye to anyone leaving the house. I also think that I am going to be careful about not telling Haley that I’m taking Chloe to “the doctor”. I feel like this will cause unnecessary fear about the doctor’s office (I don’t need her freaking out about me taking the baby to her monthly visits at the pediatrician’s office for fear that she won’t come back like the dog.).
Me? I’m going with something along the lines of “Chloe died. She was very sick and couldn’t really play or be happy anymore. She’s not here anymore and not coming back and that makes Mommy and Daddy sad. If you are sad too, that’s okay, we all will miss her.” I’m sure it will come out a little differently, and I haven’t decided how I’m going to treat actually having to TAKE the dog to the vet, since she will be home when we leave. I think I will just have her kid Chloe a kiss, then explain the rest when I come back.
Sometimes being a parent is glorious, sometimes it’s stressful sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it sucks. Today, being a parents sucks. Wish me luck on explaining this to Haley, and safe travels to Chloe.
Some websites I found the most helpful were:
*************UPDATE************ Click here for the results of this conversation and how it really went.