Have you needed to talk with your children about death? How have you handled these types of situations? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
Mr. Magoo (one of our dogs, aka Googoo) needed to be put down this morning. When I got home, our neighbors Chloe (9) and Ryan (6) were in the back yard with their mother, Andrea. They listened carefully as I explained kidney failure and the process of putting an animal ‘down’.
I’ve learned from books and experience that honest communication with children, in words they understand, is best. That’s no surprise, right? Our conversation went just about like this:
me: Hi Andrea and Ryan; how are you?
Andrea: Fine Ms. Lissa how are you?
me: Not good. <sniff>
Andrea: What’s wrong?
me: Mr. Steve and I just came home from the Animal House (Note: honest, that’s our vet’s practice’ name).
Andrea: Oh no! What happened?
me: It seems Googoo had been keeping his age from us (note: he was found at an adult age). He’d been very sick the last few days and the doctor couldn’t make him well again.
Ryan: What was wrong?
me: There are these things in your body called kidneys. It’s their job to keep your blood cleaned out. When you go to the bathroom, you get rid of the junk the kidneys cleaned out. Goo’s kidneys weren’t working any more and the junk couldn’t get cleaned out. We decided with the doctor that since Goo wasn’t ever going to feel well again, we should put him down; put him to sleep.
Chloe: So what did you do?
me: Mr. Steve and I went to say good-bye, because we loved him so much. The doctor came in and gave him a sedative so he was really sleepy. Then she waited a little while longer and gave him enough sedative to stop his heart.
Ryan: Where is he now?
me: In heaven, that’s what I want to think. His body got left at the vet’s office and they’ll take care of it.
Chloe: I loved Googoo. He was my favorite.
me: Mine too, but don’t tell Daisy or Buddy!
Chloe: I won’t!
me: Ryan, what book were you reading?
and we went on with the conversation about our days.
I think this went pretty well and the children seemed satisfied. I’m not sure why I said he’s in heaven, except that playing with dogs is my definition of a heavenly time. I’m eager to know what you think.