Introducing Your Child to Loss

January 24th, 2010

My cat Mr. Quincy loved shoes. Yes, imagine that. Someone in my life that adored shoes as much as I do. It’s true. And he had good taste. He went straight for the expensive ones. He would lay on top of them and slide his legs into the toes. Good boy, Quincy.

Quincy liked yogurt and lettuce. Apparently, he was on a diet. He would chase after me the second that Dannon foil was pulled back, and accosted me whenever I came home with a grocery bag he sensed might hold romaine. He also appreciated and usually sat on anything and everything warm (my laptop, window sills, the electric range…but that never ended well).

Mr. Quincy passed away January 23, 2010. He was 12 years old, and kidney failure kicked his butt very quickly.

We knew that the last visit to the vet was truly his last, so we all made a point to say goodbye to him. This included my nearly 3-year-old daughter. She giggled, stroking Quincy. She said to me when I got back from the vet, “Quincy is going to be with the angels. They will play with him gently.” Wow. She knows exactly what to say and when to say it. Tears ensued. Me, not her. She went off to play with her Legos.

Later that night, at bedtime, she made a comment about Quincy getting better tomorrow morning. A-ha. The discussion was apparently not over yet, as much as I wanted it to be.

My first encounter with a heavy topic on the shoulders of my little one. Death isn’t easy for anyone. So how do you explain it to a child?

I found The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to be a great resource. Tips like being honest (Fido did not go to live on a farm); letting them react to the death in their own way, at their own pace; and the importance of closure (having a funeral or a special day where you celebrate your pet with stories and drawings).

Here are a few books I also found. They will make explaining the transition from life with Quincy to life without Quincy a little more bearable:

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney. Viorst, J. New York: Aladdin Books, Macmillan, 1971.

The Forever Dog. Bill Cochran (author), Dan Andreasen (illustrator) HarperCollins, 2007.

Jasper’s Day. Marjorie Blain Parker Kids Can Press, Toronto/New York, 2002

Goodbye Mousie. Robie H. Harris, Jan Ormerod (Illustrator). Margaret K. McElderry, 2001.

A final note to my furry baby: Quincy, you were my sweet boy. You will forever be laying happily in every ray of sunshine I see. You are under every warm blanket I wrap around my legs. And I know that whenever I take off those black suede peep toes (your favorite), you’re right there, ready to put them on. God keep you, my now-peaceful kitty. I love you dearly. Still. Always.

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5 Responses to “Introducing Your Child to Loss”

  1. anita says:

    The love and care you gave him through all those years was willing given back to you by your little boy. He knew you worked hard to save his fading body as the end came to claim him and he loved you even more for it. He still does and he’s purring when he feels the sun and hears your laughter. Don’t despair any longer. Quincy is warm and happy and resting in a pair of cuddly shoes with no pain and yes, the angels are stroking him and smiling at him.

  2. Alisa says:

    When our dog died, my girls were 4. For pets (our boy and my brother’s dog) and people (two great grandmothers and a very close family friend) we have used the Lion King as a way to handle and talk about the concept of death. When pets/people die, their physical bodies are gone, and we don’t see them like we used to, but their love and our memories always live inside our hearts. Just like Mufasah lives inside of Simba. I always loved that movie.

    Cheryl — Very sweetly and lovingly written. Thinking of you.

  3. Jodi says:

    What a lovely homage to Quincy and to the eloquent power of children.

    I would add “Cat Heaven” and/or “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant . “Dog Heaven” probably helped me grieve even than it did for my children.

    Peace to you.

  4. [...] dog Dazey Loo passed away on two days shy of her 13th birthday and one month to the day of  Mr. Quincy our cat. Yes, if you’re keeping count, our family has lost one cat and one dog in [...]

  5. [...] all know that we lost our beloved Dazey in February (right after losing our cat Mr. Quincy exactly 30 days prior). In March, we got Satsi. We’ve figured out she’s a [...]

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