This past weekend my son RJ lost his cat, Cheese. The death was sudden and came on as a result of a blood clot; based on what the emergency vet said late Saturday afternoon. It’s our first big experience with loss and while I desperately want to minimize my sons sadness I also know that he has to learn to grieve.
Cheese spent most every night with RJ for the last six years. When my son was smaller Cheese would commandeer the pillow and leave his human to scoot down in the bed. As RJ grew, Cheese moved to the side of the bed and stretched out as if trying to be as long and lean as his owner. The two were peas in a pod and unquestionably best friends.
A small voice in the back of my mind wanted to say, it’s just a cat or we can get you another cat, or anything that would alleviate his sadness. But I know that wouldn’t have been helpful. Instead I told him that it’s okay to be sad, we’re all going to miss Cheese. With tears, RJ and I worked together and built a coffin and buried our friend in a quiet spot that can be seen from the room where he spent so many nights.
As a parent,getting to the point where you don’t try to ‘fix’ whats bothering or hurting your child has been one of the hardest transitions for me. We’ve always been honest and realistic with our kids but when they are little their investment is lower and they move on quickly. Now that they have years of emotional connections with pets and friends the stakes get higher and we process things differently.
I rarely believe that there is one ‘right’ way to do something and mourning is no different. For our family and my 11 year-old we let his maturity and reaction guide us. After the fact I was able to read a few articles on the subject and I feel that this one sums up our approach nicely – When a pet dies. Still I think families need to process something like this based on their feelings and understanding of death.
It’s an honor to watch my children grow and develop into thoughtful and caring human beings. I know that being there beside them while they experience sadness and pain will influence their future growth even when it’s not clear what I can do for them. This experience has been difficult but I am optimistic for their emotional futures.
Goodbye Cheese and thank you for the lessons you’ve taught our family.