Thursday, September 15, 2011

Handling a Pet Death with kids

Most days, even though I'm getting closer to 40 than 30, I don't feel like an adult. Yes, there are responsibilities but mostly they don't weigh heavy on my shoulders. When we first had the kids I spent a few years learning to be tough. To put aside my immediate needs for another. To step up and handle a problem, not because I wanted to or thought I could, but because there was no one else. But for the most part, I am now realizing, babies are not actually that hard to take care of. Physically hard to care for, yes. Otherwise? Not so much. Their problems are pretty simple as are the answers and so for the most part I have sailed through my life feeling more like a young adult than a full-fledged responsible grown up.

Every once in awhile though, things get hard and that weight settles on my shoulders. Points in our marriage a few years back where it became clear that a divorce was actually the easier thing to do. Figuring out how to handle some behavior from the kids we've been going through and now, on the eve of the death of one of our beloved cats, the weight is there again. How do we talk the kids through this? Should they be there for the euthanasia? Should we let Miss E see the body after he dies? Should we even tell them it's happening before it does?

You know what I've come up with so far? I DON'T KNOW. This cat is Miss E's special buddy. She feeds him every night, he sleeps in her room. They cuddle. She's also at the most awkward age for this where, at 6, she's too aware for us to gloss it over (as we'll most likely be able to do with Mr. T) but she's also too young to truly understand. She knows he's been sick and we've been talking about bodies shutting down as you get older. I've told her he's about as old as a cat can get. Last night though, I tried to explain euthanasia (or as the kids now call it "the shot that makes you dead") and obviously, that didn't go over well. We have someone coming to the house to do it tomorrow while they are at school. I have not told them that. We figured it would be impossible to get them out the door if they knew Sammy was going to die while they were at school. So far my plan is to pick them up after school and tell them then. That will give us the weekend to grieve and process before they have to go back to school. Is it weird to plan your pet's euthanasia around your kids school schedule? I don't know.

Miss E told me last night that if Sammy died she would have to take him off her quilt square at school. When I asked her what that was, she explained that they were putting pictures of all the super special things in their lives on their quilt squares for a class project and she put Sammy on hers. After my heart broke in a million pieces I reminded her that she could keep him on because we will always love and remember him even after he's gone. I hope that was the right answer.

Now we are struggling with whether or not we should let the kids see his body after it's done. Neither Peter nor I thinks that is a great idea but I also don't like the idea that they went to school one day and came home and he was gone. There's only so far talking about it can go really. She knows it is going to happen sometime soon and I had her make a list of all the things she loves and wants to remember about him but..... again I come back to the I DON'T KNOW. Over and over again.

At this point, it's happening to tomorrow, they aren't going to see the body and we'll tell them when they get home from school. All I can do is cross my fingers and hope and pray that we are going to navigate through this correctly and that I will somehow know how to do or say the right thing to make this easier on the kids.


  1. Wow, intense - I think you're doing just the right thing. It's something to talk a lot about, to be there to answer questions and offer hugs. When our dog passed away we told the kids that he was sick, but now he's not in pain anymore and that is a good thing. That it's so sad but we'll always remember how much we loved him.

  2. you two are really wise 'n smart parents--and we're praying for you. I think you did just wonderfully in handling this oh, so tough part of life. And death is surely a part of life, as much as love 'n laughter 'n trials that pass...

  3. There is no right answer, I will let you know that right now. My beloved cat passed and my mom let me stay at my best friends house overnite without knowing. Anger. Our beloved chihuahua passed and everyone in my family saw and said goodbye to her. I think I'm selfish in saying I wish I hadn't had to picture my baby dog after she passed. So my only thought is I also think my kids could benefit on not having their last visual being her dead.

    It's a battle we can't win. Especially since our families deal with death a lot. Sorry you are having to deal with it at all.