No Easy Way
Our household had two of everything...until last week. Two adults, two kids, two dogs and two cats. We have had the adults together for 28 years, the kids 13 and 10, the dogs 6 and 2 and both kitties only 4 months. As anyone with kids and/or animals knows...anything can and does happen.
You can imagine that a black cat (Andy pictured above) might not have the best luck to begin with, but add that he is a male and likes to explore at night, and you guessed it, he has been the first to go. The adults in this household are now dealing with their first experience of the kids' loss of a pet.
There are several schools of thought on explaining death to kids, but I'm here to say, there is no easy way.
I know people who have lied to their kids, and simply waited for the kid to notice the pet's absence, then told the child that they don't know what happened - Cowards way out if you ask me! The kids will always wonder what happened to their beloved pet. (I know...my husband wonders to this day where Brandy is, and whether his parents told the truth.)
I know people who take the animal away, or bury it before the child has a chance to see it and realize, then tell the kid that the pet died, and that is life, and, "I've taken care of it." - Another coward who can't deal with it him/herself, and can't imagine trying to help their kid through the grief.
Since my sons are old enough to understand, my husband and I just decided to calmly, kindly tell them we had some bad news, and spill it directly. This is the hardest thing I have had to do as a parent so far. I have to temper my own grief, and help my sons process theirs. It has not been easy, and it will certainly take time, but we believe that our children need to understand that death and sadness are part of life, and life will always go on. We still look for Andy to come in the dog door meowing up a storm looking for food, and my 10 year old still cries mostly at night when he thinks about Andy, but there is no easy way to get over the pain, anger, guilt and frustration that come with death and loss - you just have to feel your way through it.
I want to help my sons handle this part of life by feeling their feelings, and naturally letting them subside, rather than hiding or suppressing them and eventually, when they are adults (or teenagers for that matter) needing other coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol to numb the pain they never learned to ride out on their own.
What do you think? Are we too harsh in telling it like it is and making them feel the pain? What have you done to help children cope with loss and death?