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Teaching A Toddler About Death

Our girl on her 16th birthday in October 2011.

This one is a heavy, heavy subject.

My son spent the first two years of his life having my sister (his nanny) care for him at my parents house while I worked.  At their house, he formed a close bond with my mother’s miniature dachshund, Missy.  We have known for a long time that Missy’s life was shortening at a rapid pace, especially when she turned 14 years old and then 15 years old and then we blew out 16 candles in her honor this past fall.  We have known there would be a time when Harrison would go over to Gram and Grandaddy’s and there would be no Missy…and then what?

After speaking to the vet and talking as a family, we have come to the heartbreaking but loving decision that it’s time to let Missy go.  So what do we tell a little boy about the loss of a pet and the emptiness he feels when he cannot explain it and we are all still dealing with our own hurt?

How do I explain to him that Missy is gone?  And not “gone” the way Daddy goes to work and Grandaddy lives at another house, but gone in a way that will never return.

Do I tell him it’s like fruit snacks?  He loves fruit snacks and they are so wonderful but then he eats them and they’re gone and they don’t come back.  He might understand that.

Do I tell him that it’s like when Simba’s dad died and Simba was sad for a little while, but then he was happy again with his friends?  He probably won’t be able to think that abstract.

But I know my little boy and I know he will miss her.  And I know my heart will break all over again when he’s standing where her bed used to be and asking where his “Mimi” is.

Beth Anne writes words & takes pictures on The Heir to Blair.
You can also find her on the Twitters & Facebook.

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