Cat died and 3-year-old is still upset

(16 Posts)

I posted about my cat Peanut before. She was an old lady (16) who was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, complicated by asthma and possible heart problems.

Our vet treated her well, and gave her an extra few good months, for which we were very greatful. Unfortunately, she developed an infection which just proved too much for her and she had to be put to sleep a month ago.

DH and I miss her terribly - she was a part of our family for such a long time, and it doesn't seem real that after all those years she isn't here.

DS was 2 at the time (he just turned 3). I tried my best to explain it to him in simple terms, and in a way that wouldn't scare him. He knew that Peanut had been ill, and that she "went to the doctor's" a lot. It couldn't be avoided - Peanut coughed a lot, which DS noticed, and I'm pregnant (high risk), so have spent a lot of time in hospital and on bed rest. This meant that DS sometimes had to go with DH to the vet's.

I didn't want him to associate death with going to the doctor given my numerous appointments, so focused on a few simple facts, but I feel like I've gotten it all wrong.

I told DS that Peanut was very old, and that because she was so old she couldn't get better. I said that she had died, and that meant that she wouldn't be coming home again. That we all loved her, and that she loved him (she really did - she was a prickly cat, but was so gentle and protective of him), and that we would miss her very much. He took a while to think about it, and came out with a lot of muddled statements (Peanut's outside, but she can't come back. Peanut's not very well and she went to the doctor, etc). I tried to listen and answer as best I could, and within a week he stopped mentioning her.

Today, nearly a month later, he was distraught. We were all getting ready to go out, and he started crying. He was howling and sobbing, saying Peanut's name over and over again. I cuddled him, and he could hardly talk through his sobs. He said "I love Peanut so much, and she can't come home". I made sure he was saying what I thought he was, I guess I was caught by surprise, but he was. He told me Peanut had died and he loved her so much. I just hugged him as tightly as I could and told him that Peanut knew that he loved her and that she loved him too, that we all loved and missed her, and that it was okay to be upset. I probably said more, but I also told him that he could always talk to us if he was upset.

I know this is really long, but I just feel awful that he was so very upset after not saying anything for ages, and I don't know what I should have told him differently to help him understand or feel better. He's so small, and it broke my heart all over again to see him in such a state.

Mumcentreplus Mon 08-Apr-13 01:47:21

He's grieving it's natural that he will react in this way just support him and love him just like you have been doing, it will get better..grief is a new experience for him right now...even as a adult our family cat died (she was 20yrs old) I'm 40 years old and I still think about her every now and again, I still get sad and I still shed a tear under the right circs..she was a big part of my life and she was funny smart and grumpy in her own way..just be there for him. He'll be ok <hugs>

Silly really, but I never thought of it as a new emotion for him to learn. I suppose I was unprepared for such strong, real emotion from him, but they had their own relationship that he is missing.

Thank you

Mumcentreplus Mon 08-Apr-13 15:29:01

Your welcome, how's he doing?

fackinell Mon 08-Apr-13 19:05:55

So sorry about your lovely Peanut and distraught little boy.hmm
Not being nosey but if you have any belief system that may help such as Peanut has gone to heaven and the angels will look after her, that may help. It's the not knowing where she's gone that will trouble him. Rainbow Bridge is a sweet little story too and as a night time ritual may help him settle. But again, it's about meeting again in the afterlife.

I used to care for the children of an Athiest couple and although I'm not particularly religious I really did struggle to answer their questions about where Grandma had gone. In the end we just made fairies to go in Grandmas coffin. Perhaps a special place in the garden where Peanut liked to lie in the sun? He could draw a picture of her or place a photo in a waterproof pocket with some flowers and he could go there to think of her when he misses her?

Kithulu Mon 08-Apr-13 19:31:40

There is a really good Mog book where Mog dies. I think its called Mog and the kitten. It puts Mog's death in a way kids can understand.

ClaraOswald Mon 08-Apr-13 19:33:08

Goodbye Mog.

howcomes Mon 08-Apr-13 19:39:19

Just wanted to recommend another b

cozietoesie Mon 08-Apr-13 19:40:58

Have you any photos of Peanut for him?

That's so sad hmm.
There's also a really good book by Nicholas Allan called Heaven which isn't as religious as it sounds if that's not your thing but its a lovely story about a girl and her dog.

howcomes Mon 08-Apr-13 19:43:08

Just wanted to recommend another bOok, famous fred by posy Simmons, I think you can also find it as a cartoon on youtube. It's about a cat called Fred who lived a double life as a famous singer all of which is revealed to his owners soon after his death. It's aimed at 3 to 8 year olds and your son might appreciate it.

storytopper Mon 08-Apr-13 19:53:02

I'm crying just reading this. Had to say goodbye to so many pets over the decades, especially cats. Your poor, lovely sensitive DS. You did a great job in explaining it to him. You will never forget Peanut but could you think about getting another cat or kitten one day?

Wow - thank you for all your kind words and suggestions.
DS was fine again today Mumcentreplus, maybe a bit cuddlier than usual, but he didn't say anything.

I think I've avoided bringing up the subject of Peanut with him because I felt like I would upset him, but I think now that if I talk a little with him and maybe get one of the suggested books that perhaps it will stop everything building up like it did yesterday.

We are not particuarly religious, but I did touch on the idea that she had gone to heaven as a way to explain where she was. I don't think he really understood though, as he doesn't really understand heaven either - I was grasping at straws a bit.

I thought a lot today about how big a part of his small world she was. He saw her every day, would help feed her as soon as he woke up, she would nudge him and sit next to him when he cried, and he would make a big effort to be gentle with her when he stroked her. Of course he didn't just forget completely about her - I was foolish to think that might have happened.

I find a photo of the two of them together, and use it as a way to let him talk if he wants to, and order a book. He's only just 3, and struggles to find the right words for things, but I think your suggestions would be a great place to start.

It is so hard to lose a pet. It might be daft, but we paid for the individual cremation (which we can't really afford) even though logically I know it makes no difference. I just felt so helpless and wanted to do one last thing for her. I can't say never but I'm not ready for another cat yet, although DH says he would like one in the future.

Thank you all again - I'm really touched thanks

TheSilveryPussycat Tue 09-Apr-13 10:46:25

You could just say DCat has gone to live in the sky. This helped with a friend's LO, I imagine because he then knew where DCat was.

rowrowrowtheboat Wed 10-Apr-13 21:28:04

Our cat is getting on and has an over active thyroid. DD1 lists her as a family member (she is 4) and would be so upset when the cat does go.

Her great nanny recently died and her fabulous teacher made a memory book, got her to draw a picture, and had blank pages we could put some photos on. She pulls this out to look at still.

As DD1 class both our cats as equal members of the house, I think I would do something similar. Give her some pictures to make into a collage and admit that I miss them too.

So sorry she is no longer part of the humdrum of family life.

rowrowrowtheboat Wed 10-Apr-13 21:52:40

Ps, not comparing the cat to Great Nanny, just trying to think from DD perspective on who she loves.

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