Lessons in Life When You Lose a Pet

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Life throws curveballs, this I know, and yesterday while it started as a perfectly good sunny Sunday, it ended on a very unexpected, sad note.

One of our family’s cats suddenly landed himself at the emergency vet and he didn’t get to come back home. He was my cat really, since I found him before my husband and I found each other. He was my furry companion who curled up with me when it was just me living solo and on through single-life ups and downs, marriage, moves and the addition of our son to our family. 

For the most part he lived outside. He was our hobo cat as he liked to wander and explore. Back in his young years he was quite the hunter. Many friends thought he was a loner cat who didn’t like people, but when you sat down outside and he was around, he loved jumping in a lap.

Beyond just missing my Lil Man (the name that stuck when I picked him up as a stray before being sure I could keep him and I just referred to him as my Lil Man), it was the first time my 4-year-old has experienced death in any form and the loss of a pet.

I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject and had no idea what sort of reaction I’d get, but I was honest with him. I told him the cat was sick and we didn’t get to bring him home from the vet, and he died. To soften the blow for him and me, I explained that now he no longer was sick and he was in a place where he cold run and play.

I sense my son is sad and confused, as anyone at any age is after losing someone or some animal you love. He said Lil Man was his best friend, though in all honesty Lil Man always tended to steer clear of the small human in our house.

In deciding how to explain what happened to Lil Man to my son I found this article on our site about When a Pet Dies.

Here are some tips I took away that helped me.

• As you would with any tough issue, try to gauge how much information your child needs to hear based on his or her age, maturity level, life experience, and the questions that your child asks.

• If you do have to euthanize your pet, be careful about telling your child that the animal went “to sleep” or “got put to sleep.”

• Don’t feel compelled to hide your own sadness about losing a pet. Showing how you feel and talking about it openly sets an example for kids.

• Talk about your pet, often and with love.

In the end, this weekend’s series of events reminded me our quickly things can change; how precious family members are, including pets; that being a parent and having to talk about the tough stuff is, well, tough … and that it’s OK to show your emotions but as a mom you have to buck up even when your down.