How Can I Teach My Child To Move On
After The Loss Of Our Dog?
Love the site and all your great pieces – but I have to say Ask Rene is my favorite part of Good Enough Mother!
A few weeks ago we lost our beloved beagle, Charlie, after he was knocked down by a speeding car. Charlie was only 6 years old and it’s really knocked us around as he was a much-loved member of the family.
My 8-year-old daughter Becky has been especially upset by Charlie’s death and has been having nightmares and keeps bursting into tears. I know she’s having a hard time accepting this sudden death and I don’t really know what to do.
My husband Rick thinks we should get another dog but I think it’s too soon. But maybe it would help Becky cope?
I’m just not sure what to say to make things better. I’d love to know what you think Rene – as well as all the other Good Enough Mothers out there…
Marissa, New England
Oh, I am so sorry for your loss. Pets are a big part of our family and I think it’s impossible to describe the unconditional love and support they provide. You don’t mention in your letter if you have other children, which leads me to believe you may not. If that is the case, Charlie was more than a pet to Becky; he was a brother of sorts, making the loss even more acute. Though I am not a psychologist, here’s what I am thinking.
1. You Must Allow Becky To Grieve
Grief is an interesting thing. It’s painful but much like physical growth, it is necessary to get to where we need to be. It is also a process for which there is no shortcut. We have to allow the pain to sort of work its way through our mind and heart and once it has done that, the healing can begin. Personally I don’t believe you can go on the to next step (healing) without having properly processed the grief. And it is not linear or the same for any two people. I remember a year after my father died I was having brunch with a friend at a fancy restaurant. At the buffet was pineapple, which I love. So I piled it high on my plate and went back to the table and no sooner had I put the plate down, the tears started to flow. Just the sight of the pineapple reminded me of the last meal I fed my father in the hospital; pineapple had been a part of that. So here I thought I was done with the tears, a year later it hit me in the most random place and of ways. Needless to say those episodes became fewer and father between but I always remember that as an example of how grief is very much a complex process. You can explain to Becky that she will hurt for a while but that it is natural. Hug her and tell her you understand because you feel it too. Maybe you can just hold her and say nothing and in the process communicate a bundle.