It seems like it has been forever since I last posted a new article. I've been working with a few people on my “point of view” series. Please keep an eye on out for up and coming POV topics such as Bullying from the point of view of a successful news anchor as well as Psychology and spirituality from the point of view of a pastor.
Okay, a deep breath here. With the recent loss of our cat, I wanted to touch on the topic of children and teaching them about death, dying and loss. Believe me when I say that I completely understand that as parents, we want to guard and shield our children as much as possible especially with the cruelties and sadness in the world. Something that my husband and I decided when we were first became parents was that we didn't want to shield our kids from death. It is not that we were hoping a loss experience would drop in our laps, but we wanted them to understand what loss really was. When our son was younger, our dog ended up running away. We had a terrible screen door and he was a very rambunctious pup who decided that he wanted to go explore the world as opposed to staying put. Sadly, he never came back. Our son was about seven or eight and he was angry and sad over the situation. Now imagine if we had just moved ahead, patting him on the back all while saying, “it'll be alright.” Instead we explored his feelings of being angry and upset and we found out he was sad over the loss of the buddy who slept at the end of his bed. His feelings were all real and rational for a child and he needed to be able to explore them. He needed help to explain them.
Later, down the road, his great-grandfather passed away. It was thought-provoking for me to see tears on our little son's face as he sat there at the funeral service. This was an open casket, so he was able to see what a dead body looked like and know that it was indeed his great-grandparent. Continuing to speak specifically about our son, after we had a traumatic car accident, our son went to school one day to find out that one of his friends had died in a car accident. I am not sure how he would have handled this if we had not introduced the idea of death, dying and loss to our kids. I wanted him to be “somewhat ready” when something huge hit him. I wanted him to have a grasp on what was going on, it hurt my son's heart, knowing that he was just in a car accident and survived, but his best friend didn't. I had no idea what it meant to attend a little boy's funeral. It was one of the toughest things I did, dropping my son off and looking at pictures of a little boy my son’s age who had died. Knowing that a mother lost her child was difficult enough for me to grapple with as an adult, so if you can imagine, a little boy was torn apart. Thankfully, he had an idea of how to handle his pain and was willing to explore his feelings with his own mother.
Later, down the road, their great-grandma passed away. This is family member that we visited on a regular basis, so the kids were familiar with her and how she fit into our lives. This time we had a fourteen-year-old, eleven-year-old, five-year-old and a three-year-old and yes, we did take them to the funeral. They did know what was going on because we had talked to them about it. Sure, our three-year-old will tell somebody out of the blue that her grandma died, but it's important to talk to them about such topics in order to maintain their awareness of life. It is also important for maintaining their safety. I have told my kids repeatedly that you can't run out to the street without holding somebody's hand because you could get hit by a car and die. I don't want to be vague and tell them you won't “be safe anymore” or “you get hurt really bad”. No, I want them to know the possible consequences and how much I love them. That's why I try to be age appropriately truthful and that if they do certain things, they could get hurt to the point that they never come back. I want them to comeback. Another reason I decided to have the kids attend the funeral of their great-grandparents is because I want them to know that family is together in sad times. They know that everybody gets dressed up to go to a funeral and that we sit together as a family. Despite the tears and sadness, everybody's hugging and holding each other because family makes themselves available for family. As parents, we are here when their hearts are hurting. I want them to be able to feel the pain, so that way they can heal. If they can't do it on their own, I want them to know that their parents are available for them, to hold them and to let them cry or get angry.
So, here's hoping that our cat comes back, sadly we know that this isn’t likely going to happen. I am hoping we can help our kids get over the fact that they did lose an important little family member. Either way, we'll find a way to move on together, always together as a family.
IMPORTANT! We did rescue our kitty from the cold outdoors, and he is inside, safe with his family.
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