Daddy, Daddy, Puss is dead! Waaah!

Two Dads's picture

That's pretty much what I expected to hear on the day my lovely cat of 16 years was put to sleep. So I thought about how to approach the subject of death with the kids. They were still quite sensitive over past events and I knew with all the training we'd received via the home working done with the social worker that there were many methods of dealing with it.

Puss was still alive and the appointment had been made for the Friday so I had a couple of days to prepare, I just hoped it was enough time.

After agonising long and hard over this and discussing it with my partner I decided that a sit down chat with each child individually might be the best approach. That way, if they have any questions there was no embarrassment or silly sibling rivalry getting in the way. Holding my breath I decided I would tackle Heather first as she was the most solemn and serious.  

"Heather", I began, "Puss is very poorly." 

"Why?" asked Heather. 

"Well, it's because she's quite old." 

"Older than you?"  

Hmm, this wasn't really going according to plan. I had expected a few questions over illness not a discussion of my advancing years, though I still look fabulous of course!  

"Puss is an old cat in cat years, she's over a hundred years old. Because she's so old she's become poorly and won't be here when you come in from school on Friday." 

"Why?", she asked. 

"Well, the vet will come and take her away." 

"Why will the vet take her away, can she not fly to Heaven?" 

Hmm, a tricky one this. Do I tackle theology, do I correct her, do I maintain her belief or do I blurt out some truths? I took the easy option. "Honey, when she dies on Friday her soul flies up to Heaven but her body gets left behind. The vet is here to take her body away and put it in a wooden box so we can keep it safe and remember her." 

"Cool, can I see the box?" By now I'm nearly in tears because I'm discussing the sad event of my cat's passing and the strength of feeling of what is about to happen caught me by surprise. In a strangled voice I explain that she can see the box when the vet says it's ready. Heather strokes Puss and says "Bye bye". My partner takes over. I make myself scarce so she doesn't see that I'm in tears. 

Now calm I approach James and start with saying Puss is poorly. He says "Dad, she's going to die and go to Heaven. I said bye. Can I watch telly?" 

It seems the kids are a little more resilient than their parents. Thank goodness for that. Friday has been and gone, we've spoken about Puss a couple of times but the kids are absolutely fine which is the main thing. I'm obviously upset but being able to cope with grief is an adult strength, isn't it? 

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