4 tips to help children grieve the loss of a pet

Until 5 a.m. this Valentine’s Day, we shared our home with a sweet ginger kitty named Sophie, These ear infection home remedy tips helped my puppy get back to normal but She was our special friend and bed warmer for 14 years. Her presence was an orange-colored angora thread woven through the fabric of our family’s life. Now we find ourselves confronted with having no choice but to traverse the rugged road toward accepting that our kitty is gone. We regret we could not spend more time with her due to our travelling all the time for work. This is one of of the primary reasons why we just found information on service animal registration and are going to get our dog “Bruno” registered on it as soon as possible so that we can take him along where ever we go. Dog Walking Insurance UK : Business Insurance for Dog Walkers : DogWalkerInsurance

At first, when a pet dies there is the shock of things being all wrong. The atmosphere changes in your house. Now we wake up and there is no sleeping kitty among the covers. That spot on the couch will never again be occupied by our fluff baby who smelled like sandalwood and cardamom. The void left by the death of our beloved cat makes us feel as if our house is not completely a home anymore, we are thinking about adopting one again, it just feels right, my cat sneeze so much back when we he used to be with us, that’s one of the sounds we miss the most. To learn more about preventing spread of infection Control Results can help your healthcare facility keep your patients protected from HAIs.

If you have pets, you know what they add to your family’s life. My daughter Nicole laughed for the first time when she noticed Sophie’s face looking down at her, one paw gingerly touching her baby belly. When Niki was 4, she told me that she was lucky to have 3 Mommies: me, Mother Earth, and Sophie whose nickname was in fact Mama Kitty as per an article we found in teacupdogdaily.com.

It has not been easy to say goodbye and let her cross over the Rainbow Bridge.

If you are interested there are Cat Boarding Melbourne services you can hire, they welcome pets boarding in all types of facilities (private rooms, boarding houses, hospitals, retirement homes, etc.) with the following conditions:

  • Cat must be allowed to have contact with children under the age of six
  • Cat must be kept in a clean environment free from contamination or hazardous substances
  • We do not allow cats with visible injuries such as bites, claws, or broken nails
  • In all facilities we provide a safe, secure environment for cats to stay, be greeted and loved.
  • The cost for boarding is paid monthly and the amount varies depending on the type of facility and the individual cat.

Loss of a Pet Could Be a Child’s First Experience with the Permanence of Death

Losing a beloved pet engenders a special kind of sorrow. It is grief that does not go away quickly, because it is not an event of sadness but, instead, is a process of readjusting to a new reality without someone who was loved.

Children need the freedom to feel all that they do for as long as it takes. When they are allowed to be present with their feelings in an authentic way and, even better, when they know we accompany them as they move at their own pace through the process of grieving, they learn that a painful loss will gradually become more tolerable.

In our culture, we don’t do grief very well. We are often at a loss when in the presence of someone in deep emotional pain. As parents, we might have to run interference when well-meaning friends, grandpas, or aunts try to help erase the child’s sadness without realizing that there is no way to rush the grieving process.

When someone suggests to a bereaved child that a new cat or dog or hamster will fix everything, it can make them feel worse. How can you replace the one you loved so much? You cannot, he is gone. Forever. And while, yes, it is good that the kitty’s suffering is over, that does not make it any less painful that she had to die to be free.

Tears and sobs are going to come in waves so we may have to ask our extended family, or a Papa who gets nervous when there are tears, to just hang onto the boat while it takes its course. It will not hurt this bad forever, but it will hurt for as long as it does.

That said, there are things that can help during the grieving process. When our beloved dog died, as I fumbled with red eyes to find my way through the terrible feelings of loss, I discovered some practices that helped us to lessen the overwhelming quality of our sorrow. But all the accessories that you might have brought for your dog would make it harder for you to move on, despite inculcating such practices.

4 Tips to Help Children with the Bereavement Process of a Cherished Pet:  

1) The Necessary Rite of Passage of a Proper Burial

The mind and heart need a rite of passage to help us comprehend that things are no longer the same. Years ago, when the vet put down another cat, he had the wise insight to ask me if I wanted to take his body in order to give him a proper burial.

When my stepchildren’s tiny turtle died, it was very important for them at ages 10 and 11 to give him a funeral. They made a little mausoleum out of marble tiles in the corner of our yard and ceremoniously laid him to rest with a heartfelt tribute. I found his food canister there once, and on the Day of the Dead, they put flowers on his tomb.   

2) A Traditional Funeral

It is tradition in Mexico — where we live — to keep the body of a deceased family member laid in state in the family living room for 24 hours after death. Relatives, friends, and neighbors come to pay their last respects. This allows the mind to comprehend that the person has transitioned out of their body. It is sad, but it helps since it gives everyone the opportunity to let reality set in.

After she released her last breath, we laid Sophie on her cat bed and arranged flowers in a vase next to her. We lit a candle that burned while Niki was in school. The fact of her death was undeniable, but we could stroke her fur and talk to her while having the benefit of still being able to see her body, the one we had hugged and loved so many years.

Once a proper grave was dug, we put on our prettiest dresses and prepared for the burial ceremony. Niki filled up a little basket with magenta bougainvillea flowers. We gathered up Sophie’s toys. Also a model train set is a very good gift for your kid, so he can distract himself by having fun. It made us laugh when we remembered to get some yarn for her to play with,because she never accepted that knitting was not a game. Niki said that it was too bad we could not send her off with the couch she had destroyed. The couch damage aside, recalling good memories helped…then hurt…then made us laugh…then cry and hug. That is how grief goes. That’s how it is shared.

We carried Sophie to the place under the trees overlooking the valley. We laid her down into the grave, head facing east to the rising sun. We arranged the toys and Nicole’s drawing that had been made to encourage our kitty when she got sick. We thanked our beautiful friend for being our lovie. We said everything we needed to. Then we covered her in flowers, sang a eulogy song, and finally let the dirt cover her. And when that was done, we placed a flower arrangement on her grave, a pretty one, because that was how much we love her.

3) A Candle Ceremony

Creating ceremonial space in this way connects children to a sense of reverence for the love shared with their pet while also teaching them to take care of their own sad heart.

Petloss.com is a sweet website that offers a loving space where bereaved humans can register the name of the deceased family pet and upload a tribute. It feels important to do that, like you are declaring that the life, now gone, mattered — a lot. We added Sophie’s name this morning. Our dog is listed there, too. There also is a link on the site to online pet loss counseling.

The website also offers a gentle opportunity to join with others in the solidarity of grieving every Monday at 10 pm EST, when bereaved humans from all over the world light a candle at the same time for their lost pet. People are encouraged to do this every week for as long as they feel moved.

This Monday, we lit a candle and felt the comfort of knowing that others are also celebrating their friendship with one who had brought them so much joy. This will help.

4) Honoring the Fond Memories and the Friendship

The love does not go away because our pet left her body. We now have to dispose of things like her medicine that are painful reminders that she suffered illness that led to her death. We remove them, because seeing them makes us sad. At the same time, even though it is painful with her passing so recent, it would be a mistake to avoid thinking about the good times or to try to forget everything we shared. We want to celebrate and hold on to good memories. They are what give sacred meaning to the tears. Our kids can learn to hold the joy close in their hearts even while the grief looks on.

One way to help them navigate the complexity of feelings is to give them a symbol of the friendship that encourages them to anchor their remembrance in the safe harbor of happy memories. It can be a framed photo of them with their pet on the nightstand or a symbolic object that reminds them of the special friendship for the treasure that it was.

 

Our kitty was a real hugger. Fortunately, among the odd fabrics in my stash, I had an old angora sweater with a hole in the sleeve that miraculously was the same color as Niki’s Sophie. I sewed it up into a soft, huggable pillow in the shape of a full heart and put it in Sophie’s spot on the bed. This morning, I found Nicole hugging it and saying, “I hope you are happy where you are now.” She told me that I can use it when I start to miss Mama Kitty. I know I will.

Silent Heartbreak

I had a miscarriage when I was 24. It was one of the most devastating events of my adult life.

For three months, I was sick. For three months, I planned out the entire future of this little being nestled safely in my womb. I even had a name: Rose Marie Elizabeth. Then, at a routine doctor’s appointment, it happened. She couldn’t find the heartbeat.

I was told not to worry, “It’s not uncommon, but just to be sure, let’s schedule you for an ultrasound.”

“But.” I hate that word. It’s always a caveat to other things. It’s hardly ever a good sign. I love you, but … I brought this for you, but … Check’s in the mail, but … Things are fine, but … ”

Off I went for my ultrasound. I was laying on the exam table with a blanket wrapped around my middle, wearing a too-big, generic hospital gown in a quiet room, tucked away from the main flow of the clinic.

I should have known.

The technician was very kind, very gentle, and sensitive to the news he was about to reveal. I had no idea how to read the images on the screen. I could see a sack, but it looked empty. His face told me what I wasn’t brave enough to ask. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “these things happen. There’s nothing you could have done. It’s not your fault.”

I don’t remember changing my clothes or walking out of the clinic, but I remember sobbing in the car as though my soul had been shredded from my body.

They told me that it could take up to two weeks for my body to have the miscarriage. I was in agony. My mind was tortured by the thoughts of what I was carrying around inside me. Of the life I had so lovingly planned just a few moments before. Now it was nothing but shambles around my feet. Everything felt broken: my mind, my body, my life, my baby, my dreams.

Two weeks later, I felt the first pain. It came slowly at first, very far apart, and just like regular labor, it gradually increased in speed and strength and length. I drove myself home from work but shouldn’t have. I don’t remember anything but thinking I was going to die.

It was just like giving birth except there would be no baby at the end of all the work.

I couldn’t do it. I was literally a shaking lump of tears on the bathroom floor. Somehow, I managed to get the phone to call 911. The woman on the other end was soothing, and I felt safer.

I ended up in the hospital Emergency Room that night. Unfortunately, the nurse was cruel and unsympathetic to what was happening to me and the obstetrician was busy with happier things upstairs to pay much attention to me. Two residents took pity on me, giving me a warm blanket and a shot to numb the pain. They offered simple but powerful kindness by touching my knee and stroking my hair as I cried. Twelve hours later, it was over. The obstetrician examined me, and I was sent home.

I had no idea how to heal. Is time my only option, because sitting in that murk and disillusionment would have killed me.

I decided to go to the book store to find a book about miscarriage. I was standing in the grief section trying to find something that would work for what I was feeling. Nothing. I went to the death section. Nothing. I went to the self-help section. Nothing. There was nothing for me. I’ve never felt so completely alone. Dejected, I sat on the little stool meant to help people reach for the higher shelves and just cried. I cried for my baby and for me and for my hopes and dreams that seemed so very far away. And I cried, because I was angry that happiness had been ripped away from me.

As I was leaving the bookstore, I passed by the baby section—where all the “new mom” books are, the cute baby faces in cute baby clothes, where all the happy families hang out. At first, I was going to keep walking because the thought of looking at what I had just lost threatened to unravel my last thread of strength. But something inside me told me to be brave, to just look up, to look at the titles, that it’ll be OK.1405283_85836809 purple flower

I picked up a book about natural pregnancy. It was called Immaculate Deception. I don’t know why I picked it up. Maybe it was the word “deception” since that’s how I felt. Or maybe it was “immaculate” because the word held a promise that better times where ahead. Whatever the reason, it was the book that would lead me to my two beautiful home water births. It was the inspiration for finding my power as a woman. It planted the seeds of expectation: that we all deserve a respectful birth which empowers us and celebrates our strength, within in a culture that respects our choices.

At the time, my miscarriage was one of the most painful events I ever went through. It took me months to physically recover and years before I recovered emotionally. But I believe everything happens for a reason, even our darkest moments, and if we can be brave enough to just look up, we’ll be fortunate enough to discover what that reason is and be better for knowing.

*Originally published in the New Baby 2012 edition of Attached Family. Click here to access past issues of Attached Family. If you are not already an API member, you can join now for free by using the link provided on the Attached Family page.

 

Build the Castle

I’m sitting on my bed, knees angled in a V, my back against the Robin’s Egg blue wall. My son is building a castle out of over-sized Legos on the table next to the bed.

I’m hopelessly sad. My mother passed away on Christmas Eve. She had a long illness and every Christmas was the “last” Christmas in my mind, but this Christmas Eve she really died. I posted this on Facebook the night she passed:

“When you see Santa in the sky tonight, know Betty’s got the reigns tonight. She died while I was on the phone with her 9:58 MST/11:58 EST (the nurse held the phone to her ear). 

Believe it or not, it gives me great joy and peace that she passed on Christmas Eve, exactly two minutes before midnight East Coast time. She has always been on EST as a New Yorker at heart. RIP Betty. No star ever shone brighter than you. I love you always.”

Photo Source: Mother Nature Network

Although her illness progressed slowly, I thought I’d be more prepared. I thought I detached from her more each year she declined in health, but I became more attached with every day she lived.

I took my son to meet her Thanksgiving 2010. She held him and kissed him in her arms. My mother didn’t die young; in fact, she lived a very full active life until the age of 77. Still, I am not ready to have my mother gone. I want to call her desperately.  I lived 2,500 miles from her. Now, the distance is immeasurable. The last year her health declined so much she had to live in a nursing home.  I visited her as much as I could.

Last May (2011), she had a close call (read this post for details); I received a call from the nursing home on a Thursday night and I was on a plane Saturday. I had to leave my son very abruptly, who was actively breastfeeding – he was one year old. This was difficult, but at the time I had to make a decision. I brought my breast pump and pumped while I was in Colorado.

My husband and in-laws took care of my son. When I arrived at the nursing home it was decided to bring my mom to the hospital. She had a severe bladder infection and was severely dehydrated.  When I went to the hospital, my mom was delirious and hallucinating. She said to me, “There are some folks from Heaven here who want me to go with them.”  I said, “Tell them to take a number. I just got to town.”

My mother was treated with antibiotics and given IV fluids. She beat the infection and recovered. I stayed a week out West and visited with my mom.

Now my son and I are reading a book as he pulls the zipper down to his jammies and says, “I don’t like my jammies.”  We read the book, Road Work Ahead about seven times. Each time we get to the last page he says, “Again. You read it again Mama.”

Now he is asleep in my arms, his little boy eyes closed peacefully. I think about my mother doing the same exact thing for me as a two year old, snuggled deep in her arms listening to her heartbeat. I’ve realized that being a mom made my mom so happy. She was so good at it and I’m lucky to have been blessed with a lively, loving mother.

She was diagnosed with two benign brain tumors in 2000. Her condition deteriorated slowly, almost unnoticeable, until viewed in chunks defined by years.

Now I am grieving. The shock has worn off and I realize she is gone. The grief work for me truly begins now, a little less than a month later.

She will be buried with my father’s ashes at Arlington Cemetery. I will drive her ashes up 95 North with my husband and son to our nation’s capital. I assume the closure of her funeral will help me detach perhaps, but I have not detached as I can’t really detach from her as we were very attached to each other.

I think I put it rather eloquently in a Facebook post about a week after she passed:

“This by far is the deepest pain I have ever felt. It is layered in my mind, body, spirit, for at one time I shared my mother’s body — and heart.”

It’s going to take time. In the meantime, I cherish the moments like this — my son snuggled in my left arm, the memories of my mom alive in my right hand as I write.

Here is her obituary:

Here is a post I wrote about her: Magic Mama.

My beautiful mom

 

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