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Talking to My Kids About the Death of the Family Cat Is an On-Going Conversation

Talking to Kids About the Death of a PetLast week our family got a little bit smaller when we had to say goodbye to one of our family cats — Puff.

He’d been my cat since I was 15-years-old when he was born in my bedroom (our cat Tabitha had kittens and he was the runt of the litter) and he’d been by my side ever since. He was definitely a constant for my kids.

He was 16-years-old so we knew that he likely didn’t have much time left. We started the conversation with my kids about how Puff was old and might not be with us much longer. I didn’t want it to come to a surprise — having to break it to them one day and when the time came, I was glad we did it this way.

Over the years, I have noticed that if I want to talk to my kids about something serious or “big,” it’s best to approach them in small steps, allowing time for them to ask questions. If I sat them down one day and had a big talk with them, I would quickly see their eyes glaze over. I would have no idea how much they were actually retaining so smaller talks works best in our family.

I was lucky in that I had time to prepare my kids — the decision was ours and an appointment was made to gracefully and peacefully allow Puff to leave the world. I knew it was going to be impossibly hard on me, but my kids had never really shown too much interest in the cats, so I wasn’t sure how it would hit them.

A week after his passing, I am still not sure how they’re handling it. There were a lot of tears and late-night conversations about how it’s okay to cry and feel sad and that it’s normal and okay to miss Puff. We talked a lot about how these emotions will not be as strong forever, but how we may feel sad from time to time. We talked about not needing to “fix” mommy when she cried and that I was okay even when I was sad.

There are still times where one of the kids will ask where he is, only to remember that he’s gone. They’re still trying to grasp the idea of “forever” and “never again” and I am still trying to grasp that myself to be honest.

It’s going to be an on-going conversation for some time around here and I think that’s for the best.

Photo credit: © Devan McGuinness

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