And so it went. Our rabbit, the beloved family pet of nine years, passed on today. While I can conceptualize death, and compartmentalize it, I had to say, telling my children (4 and 2) had me completely on edge. Although my kids were born long after we got the bunny, they both had their special moments with her – whether it be Jake picking her up, or Morgan tip-toeing over to give her bunny treats.
We decided to do it frankly and honestly. (And of course avoid sayings like “Katy went to sleep and isn’t waking back up”. ) We pulled Jake aside, and told him we had something very important to tell him.
We went on to remind him that we’d talked the other night about how Katy had gotten old. And that she wasn’t feeling well – moving a bit more slowly, not interested in playing. Then we told him – flat-out – that she died and went to heaven. We reinforced it by saying “she’s no longer with us” – that was my statement – I wanted to make sure he really understood.
Then we waited. And watched. My little boy’s face turned from wondering, to confusion, to sadness, to anger – all in about 15 seconds. I didn’t realize that a little boy could feel such a range of emotions in such a short time. Then he spoke:
“Don’t talk to me like that. Don’t say that to me.”
He sat on his toy box, put his thumb in his mouth, and stayed there for a few minutes. There was a slight look of contempt in his eyes. I’ll never truly know if that was anger at us or just anger at the situation. My guess is the latter, but even the most mature and secure adults sometimes feel the urge to shoot the messenger.
Then, out came his empathetic, old soul. He sat on my husband’s lap, gave him a hug, and said “Hugs make those feelings go away, dada”. We’ve never said that to him. We’ve always just enveloped him in our arms when he needed it – whether he needed a celebration or comfort.
And, in true mommy fashion, I found myself marveling at the “man” my little four-year-old is growing into.
Honest, direct, closure. And onto better days tomorrow.