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Breavement and telling twins

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
My MIL just had to put down her dog who was beloved by both boys. How do we tell them? We last saw them two weeks ago and it was sudden. Any advice would be helpful.

post #2 of 9
Maybe a book about pets dying? For cats I know there is something called All Cats Go to Heaven, I'm sure there's something similar for dogs.

We didn't do the book thing for my cat dying, but my kids knew he was very sick, they saw him in the "coffin" and said goodbye, and we buried him together. Since you didn't get to do that with MIL's dog, I think a story about it might be the next best thing.

(FWIW my kids were boggled and upset by the smashing of their first pinata and the "Hooray, a Pinata" book really helped them understand what happens to pinatas. I think books really help with processing info at any age but especially when they're young.)
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks. DH is not really in agreement with me about telling them. They live about two hours away and we see them more at our place than at theirs. I think DH wants to wait until the next time we go there (sometime in the middle of the summer) and deal with it then. We're not really sure what to say - can't tell them that he went to sleep, cause then they might not want to, can't say he's gone to a friend 'cause he's not coming back. Sigh. I'm just inclined to tell them that he died and leave it at that with no other explinations.
post #4 of 9
i explain these things as they come. my daughter is about a year older than your kids, and this time last year our own beloved golden retriever passed away right before our eyes. naturally, she was there with us. the dog died. we handled it in the same exact way that we would have had she not been there. she got to see us react, feel sad, handle the burying of the dog, etc. we discussed how we loved the dog, and that she will always be with us in our hearts. she was there when we buried the dog in our yard. she thought we could dig her up and pet her again, and i explained that we cannot, that once you bury an animal, or a person for that matter, the body decomposes in the ground (explained with that means), but that the dog's spirit lives on in our memory. she accepted what we said, and knowing the truth, the whole truth helped her connect with us in the experience, and gain confidence in learning how life works, how the world works.

everybody's explanation of death is going to be a little different, and that's the way it should be conveyed to a child. IMO, the only way to be is totally honest. ignoring the fact that it happened until it is "discovered" many months ago is a little "dishonest" or at the very least disingenous (sp?). giving a curt explanation that "he died" and nothing more leaves a young child with tons of unanswered questions, perhaps questions that he doesn't even know he has.

good luck with your situation.
post #5 of 9
Sorry for your loss. I am a big fan of honesty when it comes to this. My ds1 was about 2.5-3 years old when we had to put our sick cat down. It was explained very matter of fact. In your case I would just tell them that the dog became sick and was hurting and that the best thing they could have done was to help him die so that he wasn't hurting anymore. My ds1 was a bit upset but accompanied us to the vet and said goodbye. My dh then took him and dd1 out of the room and I stayed while she was put to sleep. Depending on your beliefs you can just give a simple explanation. In our case we told ds1 that our cat no longer needed her body because it was sick and not working well but that her spirit and who she was would continue to be with us in the form of our memories and stories we told about her. We also said that if he was missing her or feeling sad we could sit down with our photo albums and remember her. We did to this a few times. We had a few tears but it was not overwhelming. Now (at 7 years) he simply tells people "We used to have a cat but she got sick and died". I like the fact that we were honest, we let him have his feelings and he moved on.

Good luck.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 
I am in agreement about the age appropriate honesty deal. The problem is that if we tell them that he got sick and died, they will worry that they will die when they get sick. If we say that he went to heaven, they will want to go there and visit him. I went through a hellish week last week when one of them wanted to go to Barney's house and wouldn't let up until I told him it was too far away. They have grandparents who live out of the country and so visit them by plane every so often and when I said it was too far away one looked at the other and said "so we have to go on an airoplane to get there" with a shrug. Sigh. At the moment we don't have to say anything as my inlaws are out of the country, but when they get back the adults will have to decide how to broach the subject when it comes up. Thanks for all the advice.
post #7 of 9
My kids were 2 yrs 9 months old when our cat died. We did take the honesty route and tell them that kitty got really, really sick, he had cancer, and he died because he got so sick. I would have done the cats-go-to-heaven book route but I didn't want to get into a discussion about heaven because we (DH and I) are atheist and don't believe in God or heaven or an afterlife.

Anyway. We added details about how kitty didn't just have a cold, it wasn't a normal sickness, he was really, REALLY sick and I made sure to give the sickness an actual name (cancer) because I too was worried that they would think they might die next time they get sick. My kids seemed to understand the concept--mostly*--and didn't get worried about their own mortality, but I know all kids are not the same and you know your own children best.

*I say "mostly" because now, nearly six months later, DS still sometimes says he wants to go dig our kitty up from the backyard, because he likes old kitty better than the new kitty we just got a month ago.
post #8 of 9
Our dog died very suddenly (hit by a car) when my twins were about 3-1/2. A few months prior to our dog's death, the girls saw a dead squirrel in the road and my husband explained death to them at that time. When our dog died, we were honest about what happened. They took it in stride, really. They asked a lot of questions and participated as best they could in a funeral we had for him. They were a lot less upset than we thought they'd be.

I did get some books about a pet dying. I bought several on Amazon and none were all that great. Mostly they didn't apply to our situation in that his death was sudden and violent, not the typical situation of an older dog being put down where the kids get to say goodbye first.

About telling them the dog was sick, when my parent's dog died, I said "he was very old and very very sick, much sicker than you get when you get a cold." They don't seem worried that they're going to die when they get sick. My twins are 5 and they've learned over time that sometimes bad stuff happens and kids and younger people die. They've just been exposed to that through life. Death is a very real part of life and I do not agree with shielding kids from it. I think being honest, direct and providing answers as best you can with comfort is the way to deal with these kinds of things. It is hard though.
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone. I think I'll have to veto DH on this one and do what my insticts tell me and just give it to them gently and straight. First have the tell MIL what we decided to say before she says anything to them, though.
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