When I became a mom, I hadn’t anticipated the impact of having to explain death to your kids.
I thought my last post about my son’s reaction to the death of our family bunny would be the last on the subject. In fact, once we’d had the initial conversation with him, we made an effort to have life return to normal. This is probably much easier to do for your kids with “small animal” type pets – ones that dwell in cages (although I have to admit, for the past two years Katy only went in her cage for food, water, and bodily functions) – ones that tend to “keep to themselves” most of the time.
We didn’t actively bring her up after that initial conversation with the kids, and quickly returned to our normal daily existence. So, imagine my surprise tonight, two days later, when my son brought her up to me.
We have a few photos of her that have always been around our house. He went and got one.
“Oh mama, look at Katy-Katy. She’s so cute curled up in dada’s arms. What a sweet bunny. It’s really too bad for her,” he tells me in his most sympathetic tone.
I’ll admit, the first thought in my mind was “Oh crap. What do I say?” Yep, mother of the year here, get those nominations in. Honest and direct, I reminded myself.
“Yes, Jake, she was a sweet bunny. You made her very happy when you played with her and gave her treats”
“Mama, she really was a good bunny. I will miss her, but I’m not going to be sad about it. Poor Katy-Katy.”
“You know, Jake, it’s ok that she went to heaven. Heaven is a good place, and she’s happy there, too.”
“Yes, mama, I know, she’s in heaven, it’s good for her, because she was old and not quite herself.”
And with that, he carefully put her photo back in the frame, and returned it to the stereo cabinet.
I realized that he’d probably been processing her departure from our family for a few days. And for whatever reason, at this point in time, it was important for him to talk about it. He was so serious and thoughtful in his approach.
I wish I could see into his little mind and find out where he’s at. Do 4-year-olds go through stages of grief? Is he just trying to figure it out? Or, was he bringing it up to gauge our acceptance of the situation?
The one thing I’ve learned is not to underestimate his ability to think about and process the information we give him. Something tells me that this subject is not closed yet, and it’s open for further discussion, should he desire. And I’m ok with that. It’s a big concept for a little boy.
Or maybe, in the case of my little boy, it’s not as big as I think…