Recently we lost one of our cats, Bart. When we got married, we had five cats and a turtle and now we are left with just two cats. There have been some sad times in our family. Each pet death comes with a whole host of emotions, and when there are kids involved, it becomes especially painful to try and answer their questions while processing our own sadness.
Learning about death
But the death of a pet, especially when the pet dies at home, can be such a powerful “teachable moment”. Everyone needs to learn about death. We do not try and hide the pet from the kids, but we have given them the opportunity to see him, say goodbye to him. For this time around, it was much harder for dad, so I tried to step in and answer as many questions as I could for the kids.
So many questions about what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. We have been able to bury pets in the back yard, which I think really helps our kids to connect with what it means to return to the earth and to what cemeteries for people are all about.
I also talked to cremation because that is our choice for this cat since the ground is solid frozen still.
I spoke to both kids about the sadness that Daddy was feeling. Connor asked if he could draw Daddy some pictures, and while some of the pictures were clearly about making Daddy feel better.
There were also a few that were Connor thinking about what was happening to the cat. Both kids continue to ask lots of questions about the pets we have lost. There are lots of pictures of them around and we will visit the spot in our backyard where Bart will be buried this summer.
Some books I keep tucked away on the grown ups bookshelves for learning about death…
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families)
by Laurie Krasny Brown (Author), Marc Brown (Illustrator)
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
by Bryan Mellonie (Author), Robert Ingpen (Author)
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages
by Leo Buscaglia (Author)