Get Ready For the Questions.

I’ve had to explain to my son about death before.  That time it was my mother, his Grover Grandma.  He called her that because Grover was her favorite character.  He was 3 1/2 then and he was pretty OK with the whole situation since they weren’t very close.  This wasn’t the grandmother who played with him and that he spent so much time with.  In spite of that, I have spent the better part of the last two years fielding no shortage of follow up questions:

  • Where do the bodies go when people die?
  • What happens when someone dies?
  • Why are there so many headstones in that graveyard?
  • What’s a graveyard for anyway?
  • What’s that [urn] for?
  • Are we ever going to see Grover Grandma again?
  • Why don’t we visit Grover Grandma anymore?
  • What happened to where Grover Grandma lived? Does someone else live there?
  • Are you sad about Grover Grandma?
  • Wait, so you don’t even HAVE a mom anymore, do you?
No shortage of questions at all.
Honestly, I’m not bothered by them.  Clearly it comforts him to know the facts and circumstances of a situation and I appreciate that.  He’ll ask one or two questions, carefully deliberate the answer and then go back to squealing about whatever character he’s in love with that week.
But this conversation, the one about our dog, this one hurt.  This one made me cry.  I had to explain to this child that the dog we have had and loved for longer than he’s been alive will not be with us much longer.  I had to explain to him that his body is shutting down bit by bit.  And, no surprise here, the questions began:
  • Will his legs just stop working?
    • No, it’s not just his arthritis on the outside.  It’s his organs on the inside.
  • Does the doctor know why?
    • Yes, honey, he’s just very, very old.
  • How old is he?
    • He is 14.  But remember dog years aren’t like people years.  14 year old people are still kids and you don’t need to worry.  
  • How many people years is dog years?
    • If he was a person, he’d be about 98.  And that’s pretty old.
I asked if he had any more questions and he was quiet for a minute.  Then, as though he was asking me what’s for dinner, he said, “Mommy?  Do you know what day Dexter will be dead?”  I told him I didn’t, but it would be soon.  He said he just hoped Dexter would get to have his birthday which was only 2 days away and I said that I did too.
The great thing about being a kid was that he was done talking about it.  He moved on to the next topic which involved singing Angry Birds.  I saw that he was sad while we were talking but then he just turned it off.  When we got home and saw Dexter, I saw a look on Nathan’s face I can’t explain.  It was not quite sadness, not quite pity.

This was two weeks ago.  Yesterday we made the appointment to end Dexter’s pain.  He is severely arthritic and the medications that he has been on to help him also ruined his insides.  We knew that was to be the outcome.  Knowledge doesn’t change anything.

I’m going to spoil and love on my dog until Friday when he will leave us.  I will try to explain to my son what has happened.  I will try to find a way to not give him the impression that you can just make phone calls and loved ones die or leave.  I will try to hold it together enough to continue to do all that needs to be done because I suspect my son’s world will not stop for this, even if he is sad.

I will try to answer all of the questions that I know are coming my way.

This was not the part of parenting animals and human children I signed up for.  This part no one warned me about.  This part is harder than I ever expected.

Linking up again with Yeah Write.  Please click the link to the left to read the other submissions.  You can vote for your favorites on Thursday.

Thanks for reading!
You can follow my blog by entering your email on the sidebar.
You can like me on Facebook HERE! You can follow me on Twitter HERE!

32 Responses to “Get Ready For the Questions.”

  1. Kenja says:

    Oh, this is so difficult. Your post made me cry. I lost my beloved Chihuahua 8 months ago when I was still pregnant with my baby. I didn’t know if I would be able to keep it together trying to explain it all to a child and grieve too.

    I hope you can make some wonderful memories this week with Dexter and your son. I’m so sorry for your impending loss.

  2. carrie says:

    Oh this is some of the hardest parts of not just being a parent but being alive. Facing death is scary, emotional, and so damn tough. Children are resilient though and strong. I hope he doesn’t take the news too hard and I hope you can manage to find some peace with your decision too. When we put down our dog (Hank 14 year old German Shepherd) it was extremely difficult. But it was the loving thing to do for a dog that was suffering.


    • Thank you. I was always comforted by the fact that we could ease the suffering of an aging or sick animal. That is, until I had to actually do it. Very, very different situation. Sorry about Hank.

  3. Pippi says:

    Ah, so sorry. It is so hard to say goodbye to a dog. I’ve had to do that three times so far in my life. And sometimes, you don’t want to have to answer all of the questions so it makes it extra hard to deal with a dying dog and to help soothe and reassure a child who is also dealing with a dying dog.

    I feel for you. Hang in there. Thoughtful and sad and realistic post, by the way.


    • Thanks Pippi. You nailed it – we’re grieving and that’s hard enough. But I have to pause it for moments at a time to help him grieve too. We are ok with him seeing us sad, but there’s a fine line between him seeing our sadness and us scaring him with it. Especially for a kid that needs to know everything going on. He’s ok, acting appropriately, even if appropriate is difficult. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Lance says:

    We love a kitten, just under a year old, in February. My daughetr bedazzled a heastone and we buried Jerri’s (female with an i) ashes in our yard.

    right after that, they lost their grandfather to brain cancer. Understanding death and grief is impossible. To watch my 3 girls go through at young ages is heartbreaking.

  5. Christie says:

    Ugh, I’m so sorry. I am sorry for your loss(es) and sorry that you need to answer these difficult questions. Definitely one of the hardest parts about being a parent and opening yourself up to loss.

  6. It was only a year ago I did this very same thing. It was absurdly difficult. I know what you’re going through. Knowing that you’re doing the right thing doesn’t help the grief, but it is the right thing. Your young boy will weather it probably better than you, this time. He has some great questions. I like how his mind works. I’m sorry for your agony.

  7. Joe says:

    I’ve been down this road more than once. The kids learn to accept it rather quickly.

  8. Oh, sweetie, I am so sorry. I am not an animal person, but I want to be. I am not because this that you just described just scares me too much. I can’t take it. Well done.

  9. Oh Michelle. My heart is breaking for you. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. What a lucky pooch you have to have been loved so dearly for so many great years. Thinking of you.

  10. Gia says:

    Awww. Sniffle. I’m so sorry, that’s so tough.

  11. Man! That’s two posts in a row that wet my eyes. i’m so sorry. that is so sad. :(

  12. Jann says:

    That was a lovely, difficult thing to read. I have very fond memories of Dexter. My thoughts are going out to you and your family.

  13. jesterqueen says:

    I’m so sorry for your whole family. We just went through this with our dog, with our kids. My husband and daughter cried harder than any of us. We have the dog’s ashes in Caroline’s room, where she wanted them, and sometimes she just goes and sits under them (we have them up high in her closet because her brother is a force of nature and… well…). My heart hurts for you.

  14. Larks says:

    God. Losing a pet is one of those things that I feel like doesn’t get enough credit somehow. Explaining death to kids is one of those simultaneously unsettling and reassuring things. They get it. And yet it’s far away enough that they don’t. Until they do. And it’s heartbreaking when they do.

    This was a lovely, honest post and I’m so sorry for your loss.

  15. IASoupMama says:

    I’m so sorry for your impending loss. Fur babies are family, too. We lost one of our Labs last year and the kids took it better than I did. They do talk about her and always with a sweet, reverent tone that makes me tear up. Many hugs…

  16. Sniff. Sniff. But this was a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing. Erin

  17. Hugs. It is hard dealing with such straightforward questions when we don’t like the answers. I don’t know, maybe we would be better off if we could face it openly, be sad, and then let it go.

  18. Kianwi says:

    Oh, gosh, I’m so sad for you. I lost my dog when he was 14, as well. That whole last year of his life, I cried and I was so frustrated, because it did no good to pray that he would live, because he was just plain old. You can’t cure old :(

    I’m sorry you have to walk your son through it all. Kids are fascinating about this stuff. My coworkers cat recently died and her 4 year old barely seemed to notice, but when I went over to their house a few weeks afteward, he told me immediately that their cat died. My friend was so surprised. Kids, like you said, just seem to tuck things away and move on, but it’s still inside there, percolating.

  19. Cindy says:

    Sending so much love to you and your family. So hard to say goodbye to our animal family members. I hope your memories will help you to hold him close.

  20. I am so very sorry, I’m writing this with tears streaming down my face. It’s not the first time I’ve cried thinking about a pet dying. Even as a puppy, when it’s far away, something will trigger that inevitable thought and it’s so sad that these valued companions can’t be with us longer.

  21. Michelle, I know you’ll do a fine job because you already are. Just letting him ask his questions on his own time and answering them patiently is a tremendous gift. I’m so, so sad for you all. I hope Dexter has a happy day full of love and his favorite treats tomorrow. Being only two years into raising my first dog, I can’t even pretend to know what you’re going through, but I send my love nonetheless.

  22. What a fabulous mom you are. I’m so sorry you and your family are going through this and trust you’ll walk through Dexter’s final days with as much grace as you’ve shown helping your son through this painful time. Sending a hug.

  23. I am so sorry on all fronts. Loving has a price that has been discussed by writers and poets more eloquent than me. I’ll be saying a little prayer for you on Friday. Ellen

  24. Kathleen says:

    I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes and a little Yorkie asleep on my lap. She is only one and a half, but we love her like our third child and did from Day One. I can’t even imagine how hard this must be for you.

    I am sending good thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  25. Jack says:

    You might be surprised to find that some years from now you still read this post. I wrote a goodbye to my big lug ( five years ago and some days I go back to it.

    That is because a good dog is part of your family. My guy was 14 too and I still miss him.

    Very sorry about your pal, they are the best.

  26. Gina says:

    Hi Michelle,
    We said goodbye to our 14 year old Lab, Ellie, who was experiencing the same difficulties of old age, on June 11th. It broke our hearts but we knew it was only fair to her and we would be selfish to let her go on as she was. My kids, 19 and 21, said she was the best friend they ever had and don’t remember their lives a day without her. I will be thinking about you and your family tomorrow and love him up today! he will be greeted by many friends when he arrives in his place of peace!

  27. I’m not even a dog person and this post almost — ALMOST — made me tear up. Maybe because I have an 11 year old step-dog and a 2.5 year old who loves her. I dread the day. Not to mention when he starts asking the questions Nathan asked about Grover Grandma about my mother…

    You’ve handled this difficult situation with grace, Michelle. A good lesson for your son.

  28. I’m not a dog person either but I vividly remember when my childhood dog died. It was devastating. This will be a tough one for the kids. We had our dog’s paw print made into a Christmas ornament and it’s my favorite one to see every year.

  29. I usually try to respond to every comment. I’ve been trying to come back here for days to reply and I just can’t. Thank you everyone for the kind words. Please know I read your comments and I appreciate each and every one of them.

leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: