Last weekend we had to put our 17 year old cat, Cici to sleep. I have never had to experience putting an animal to sleep and I don't wish to ever again. It absolutely broke me and I have been out of it all week. The grief of not knowing our fur baby was sick has been even harder. I am still trying to adjust to her not being a part of our family, but I know time will heal. We miss her so much!
As an adult we understand death and dying and that it is ok to feel sad and go through the grieving process, but to explain it to a child is one of the hardest facts of life to explain. You want to make sure you handle it in a way where they know they are safe and they aren't going anywhere, but to the point they understand that the fur baby isn't coming back home.
We read several articles and asked friends advice on how to deal with the situation and everyone said exactly the same thing..."give facts, but keep it age appropriate."
Children from age 3-5 think that death is just temporary and reversible and that you can bring your fur baby back to life by taking her/him to the doctor and giving a shot or medicine. They think of the situation as "magic" and that your fur baby will disappear and then come back. Unfortunately, that isn't how it works...I wish it was like magic too!
A child under the age of 3 understands there is change and can feel the reaction of sadness from family members, but doesn't understand much more than that.
As many of you know, I have a 3 year old little boy and a 1 year old little girl. We obviously didn't discuss this with big girl, because she doesn't understand, but we talked with little man about Cici and her passing away. Below is the conversation with my little boy.
This conversation happened the day after Cici passed away.
Little Man : "I miss Cici."
Mommy: "I miss her too! Let's talk about where Cici is."
I took him to the window and we opened the blinds and we sat on the window bench. I wanted him to physically see the sky so I could explain and he could visualize what I was telling him.
Mommy: "I know you miss Cici and Mommy and Daddy do too. Cici was an older cat and it was time for her to go to kitty heaven."
Little Man: "Where is kitty heaven?"
Mommy: "Kitty heaven is high in the sky. We can't see it through all the clouds, but we know it is up there."
Little Man: "How did Cici get up there?"
Mommy: "Jesus wrapped her in his arms and took her to kitty heaven."
Little Man: "They went on an airplane to kitty heaven?"
Mommy: "Yes. She is safe and playing and happy, but we won’t see her for a long time. If you have any questions, Mommy and Daddy are here to answer them. It is ok to miss Cici and to talk about her. We love you so much and you are safe."
I stuck to the facts and kept it age appropriate. I didn't say anything about her being sick or death or dying, because I didn't want to scare him about being sick and he doesn't understand the words death or dying. I know that Cici didn't fly on an airplane to kitty heaven, but that is how his little mind was working and trying to understand and process. By me saying yes was how I needed to answer that question at the time. Overall, I think the conversation went well. He's asked about her daily and says he misses her. I respond by saying, "I miss her too, but she is safe and happy and I love you and you are safe and happy too."
Have you had to experience the death of a pet? Have you had to explain the loss to your kids? How did you cope? How did you explain the situation? I would love to hear your experience...please feel free to share in the comments or on social media.
Happy Friday everyone!