W.A. asks from Pearl City, HI on February 04, 2009
Explaining to a 3 Year Old Her Kitty Isn't Coming Home?
We just had to put our cat of 11 years to sleep tonight due to a unforeseen health issue..so none of us had any warning. Our cat was fine this afternoon and by 10pm he was gone. My daughter got to only see a little of the tears and didnt understand why. She then went to bed. When she wakes up in the morning I'm sure she will look for the kitty...how do we even begin to tell her? We've lost fish before nad we told her they were sick and we took then to the vet and the vet wanted to keep them so she could take better care of them...should we do the same I am having a hard time with this myself and cant bear to have the death talk with my three year old. I can barely keep it together for more than 5 minutes. Please any advice would be greatly appreciated..for both my child and myself. I am so horrible with death... I dont know how to cope and I'm afraid my kids will pick up on my sadness. Thank you!
So What Happened?™
Thank you all so much for your valuable insight. I havent said anything yet because the day after he died we were all in a rush because we were flying off to Maui for a week. So I'm not sure how she will be when we get home and finds that our other cat is there and not him. I myself am doing better, I havent been crying as much and can actually look at a picture of him without loosing it.... but I'm sure when we get home and he's not there to greet me or sit at my feet like he did, that it will hit more. So far all she konws is that he isn't there...she knows I am sad and said to me, it's ok mommy dont be sad. Which isntantly puts a smile on my face. It is a tough road but we will get through it, especially with all your suggestions. I think we will be letting her know that he went away to heaven and it was because his body got sick. She has her other kitty and dog, so I'm sure she will be fine...as for another kitty..that wont be happening. I have decided that I'd rather not have cats again..I've always been a dog person but these two cats personalities are what I fell in love with and I'll never be able to find that in another cat again. Thank you all again!
L.M. answers from Los Angeles on February 05, 2009
I would tell her the truth but keep it at her level. You could say something like: "Kitty was old and got sick. Now kitty is up in heaven." Kids tend to handle these things better than we do.
D.G. answers from Las Vegas on February 05, 2009
Hi W., This is always a tough situation; we've lost several pets and it doesn't get any easier. The one thing you never want to do is to lie to your kids -- they know when you're not telling the truth and you want to maintain a high level of trust between you. They know you are sad and talking about what happened will help both of you. It's OK to cry !!!!! Gently tell her that the cat was very sick and the vet was not able to make the cat better (emphasize that most of time, the vet can make the pet better or keep it well so she isn't fearful of taking a future pet to the vet). There are several great books on dealing with a pet's death; ask your librarian for suggestions. The one I really like is "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney", in which the young child writes down ten good things about her pet. As much as we want to wrap our kids up in bubble-wrap and protect them from the sad/bad things in this world, that is not our purpose as parents. We need to teach them how to cope and deal with the sad things that come our way. This is one of those "teaching moments". My sympathies are with you, and even though kitty is gone, your good memories are still alive.
1 mom found this helpful
J.C. answers from San Diego on February 05, 2009
I would just explain that the cat was very sick and went to heaven because God had a place for it. I would eventually get another cat for your child to have as a pet after you have some time to grieve.
Best of luck to you.
M.D. answers from Los Angeles on February 05, 2009
It's never easy to talk about it, but they are suprisingly able to handle it. We have a 3 1/2 year old and last year lost our twin daughters when they were born and my husband's grandmother just passed away.
We tell him the truth. For his sisters, we told him they were just too small and the doctors couldn't help them, but they are now in heaven with God. For his grandmother, we told him she was very old and very sick and is now in heaven with God. He put it together himself that they are now all together which was a really comforting thought.
When we lost our girls I asked a social worker about how to handle it and the direct and honest approach was suggested. I was told not to suggest that they were sleeping because that might make them fearful of going to sleep. Also, explaining why they are gone should make them feel a little less anxious that it could happen to you or them, even though we know that anything can happen at any time.
Good luck...it's not easy, but sadly, it's all part of life...
D.Y. answers from Honolulu on February 05, 2009
I know this is a touchy subject to talk about. My husband's grandmother which would make it my son's great grandma passed away when he was 5. She was living with us and would be playing with him everyday after school and on weekends. She was his playmate. She was 80 years old. I also didn't know how he would handle it. But to my surprise he was okay, children are likely to be more resilient then adults. Although my son was a little older than your daughter, I would explain tell her the truth and let her know that kitty is in a better place and not sick anymore. Also, kitty is watching over her everyday. Questions will come from time to time and just remind her that kitty is in heaven and in a better place having fun with all the other pets. Be strong for yourself and your children and also I would like to say thank you to your husband along with you and your family and friends for the job that they do for us and our Country.
T.W. answers from Los Angeles on February 05, 2009
Dear W. A,
As an animal lover, I feel for you, it's so hard to say good bye to our furry friends, and family member. I am very sorry for your loss. Last May I had to do the same for a 15 year old cat of ours, due to extreme sickness, and my daughter was just about to turn 3. I. like you, was very, very sad, and did not want to confuse her. So we talked about her not coming back home, because of how sick she was and not feeling well. We talked that she died and went to the skies, and turned into a little star. That night, we sat outside on the patio and looked at the stars, and I let her tell me which one was our kitty. She saw me crying, and i told her i was sad because i missed our kitty, but i knew i could see her every night in the skies and that she'd be looking at us too. My daughter spent the week telling everyone she met what happened to our kitty, and how she became a star. I myself look at the stars looking for her ;) so it worked for us both. She still tells me she misses the kitty, and how she wishes she'd come back. I tell her I do too.
And whenever you are ready, bring in a new kitty home, the energy and goofiness of a kitty in the house lifts anyone's spirits!
Love and Light to your family!
ps we recently lost her uncle, but we did not tell her - we said he went was sick (as she saw us all sad and crying) and told her he was very, very sick and needed to go live with his mommy - who lives far away - so she'd care for him. I found it harder to tell her because he was very young so it was hard to explain that one. I find that tales are a charm for evryone, and we all believe in it after a while...
J.F. answers from San Diego on February 05, 2009
I agree with just being honest. It will be hard for you to dob but is amazing how much kids can understand and be okay with. We had to put our dog down and I was honest with my daughter. We had her ashes placed in a box and we plan on putting her to rest in the creek. Our dog's death really helped my daughter comprehend and deal with the loss of her Granny. This is a life lesson and I think kids have the ability to understand and cope. So sorry for your loss. It truly is like losing a member of the family.
A.H. answers from San Diego on February 05, 2009
My children were very young(4,3,2,1)when we had to put our dog,Fang,to sleep. I told them that he went up to heaven and wasn't sick any more. They do miss him and they were sad when it happened but it wouldn't have been fair to them to lie about what actually happened. All of them still talk about Fang.
Even if you have a hard time with death, I think that it would be better for your daughter if you actually told her, in a simplified way, what happened. Even at three, she will understand. Then when she's older she'll be better able to cope with the subject of death.
A.B. answers from San Diego on February 05, 2009
I am such a wimp about death. All the suggestions are great, and I would follow Diane Leigh's especially. Good luck! I'm thinking of your little daughter right now. Tell us how it went! A.