Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Saying Goodbye - Pet Loss, You and Your Children

Our Dog, Kobe, is dying.  She has cancer and it’s spread. Our plan was to keep her comfortable for the time she had left with us – and we’ve done that.  But now things are changing for her and we’ve made the choice to say goodbye.

Making this choice is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  There is definitely a lot of guilt.  Right now she’s happy and even though her body is failing she’s still got spring in her step.  But I also know that at any moment she could suffer a catastrophic event and then I’d feel guilty for not preventing that from happening.  I’ve reasoned this out a hundred times over, and then some.  But the fact remains she’s 15 years old, is not eating, the cancer is spreading and when she ended up with an ulcerated lesion on her leg, I knew that while we could manage that for a week or so, if anything else happened I’d have to do it sooner.  Last night her hair started to fall out.  Just a small spot, but it’s spreading.  We called the vet today and on Friday, we say goodbye. 

While I’m having a hard time preparing myself for this (they call it anticipatory grief, and that title explains a lot about how I’ve been feeling this last month or so)  I have two small boys aged 3 & 5 who love her dearly.  Preparing them is even harder.

Both our cats were put down last year due to old age related events. Both unplanned and I struggled to explain that to the boys.  I decided to go with the Rainbow Bridge story.  If you’ve never read the poem, I’ll include it at the end of this post.  (Grab a Kleenex before you read it)  We told them that over the rainbow is the place where our pets go when they die.  That our cats were old and very sick and couldn’t get better and that by crossing over the rainbow, they were happy and healthy and could play and enjoy themselves again. And that they would wait there for us one day far far away.

I’ve been sharing about that and how Kobe wants to go, too.  That she misses William and Boomer and that she’s sick and very very tired.  That she wants to go over there so she can be happy and play like a puppy.  They know that she’s going to die. That she’s not coming back.

We’ve made plans to do nice things for Kobe.  Tonight we took her for a short walk in the sunshine, fed her hot dogs, roast beef and cheese slices.  She’s sleeping next to me instead of in the back room where they usually sleep.  Tomorrow I’ll spend the day with her, and the boys and I will spoil her rotten. On Friday, we’ll take her to McDonalds for lunch before the boys say goodbye and go to their Nana’s so Mommy and Daddy can help Kobe on her way.

I’ve come across some good tips for kids dealing with pet loss that I thought I’d share.

  • Let them know what’s happening in age appropriate language.  They need a chance to say goodbye.  Pretty much the number one thing people talk about is how their family pet just disappeared only for them to find out it had died or was put down and the most common thread is they wished they’d had a chance to say goodbye rather than be protected from the experience.

  • Never say the dog is being put to sleep or associate death with sleeping. Younger children cannot understand the analogy.  It can cause tremendous fear that if they fall asleep, they will die, too.

  • Share your grief – but do not overwhelm them with it.  It’s ok to cry, to acknowledge your sadness.  This allows them to express their feelings as well and to feel empathy. 

  • Acknowledge their feeling and fears.  Discuss things in ways they can understand.  Keep your language simple and clarify what their fears are.  Address their points, while being careful not to give some much information they get confused.

  • It can be helpful to make a small album with them filled with pictures, drawings and memories of a beloved pet.  This can be a good way to work through those feelings and leave them with a cherished memento.

  • Pets are very much a part of a family and the process of grieving is pretty much the same as losing any other loved one.  Allow everyone time to come to terms with what has happened.

  • Don’t rush out a buy a new pet.  Allow some time to pass – you’ll be the best judge of how much is right – so that you can choose your next pet with great thought and care.  It is, after all, a lifelong commitment.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....

Author unknown...

1 comment:

  1. It's the hardest thing you have to do to let a beloved pet go. Prayers and hugs to you and your family.