Understanding death - is this normal?(9 Posts)
I have a 3 year old and in the last year and a half we have lost my mum, my nan and most recently, our cat just over a month ago.
I couldn't hide any of this from him as obviously I've been quite upset and I felt it was best to just tell him in a way he could understand. I am not religious so I don't feel comfortable talking about heaven so I have answered as many questions as I can and of course he has a lot of questions. Basically, what we have talked about is:
- When people or animals get old or very very sick they sometimes can't get better because x is wrong with them and they die even though we tried very hard to make them better.
- Sometimes people just get a little bit poorly but they get better so being poorly doesn't mean you will die.
- It is very sad when someone dies but the person who is dead is not sad because they aren't sick or old anymore but they can't come back to us because they can't stop being dead.
- We have also had a walk around the local church yard and I explained that the graves were were people were buried, like at my mum and nan's funerals and like how we buried the cat in the garden, and the gravestones are to tell us who is buried there.
So I hope I have managed to field most of his questions without frightening him about death, but he is still talking about the cat every day. He isn't always sad about it, although today he said he wanted the cat back. Sometimes he tells me that he saw the cat this morning or that she is doing x right now. I don't know if he is pretending or if he is trying to deal with the loss in his own way.
Today when he came out of pre-school he said he had been telling his friends that the cat had died and then told me about things that I know he did with the cat on the morning she died, so I think he is still thinking about it a lot.
So sorry for the long post and I hope it makes sense, but I'm basically just wondering if you think I've explained it ok to him and do you think there is anything else I can do to help him grieve? He's so little to be so sad for this long.
It sounds like he is really missing the companionship of your cat. Can you get a new cat?
I know that doesn't deal with death specifically, but it might help him to have a new companion.
I asked a similar question in the gifted and talented section. The reply I received was extremely helpful. Why don't you have a look at that thread?
My mum died last week and I'm not sure my 2.9mo ds understands exactly what's going on - he keeps checking the situation by saying things like 'Nanny's in London' and waiting for our response (we've said she's in Heaven, not due to faith but because it's easier).
Maybe your ds misses his cat most of all because she was a big part of his daily life. I think the suggestion of getting a new cat is good.
I'm sorry for your losses
OP, I think the way you've explained it is excellent. It does sound as though your DS is still processing it all and 'testing' what you've said. also at 3y/o it might be that he doesn't exactly have the vocabulary to distinguish between literally seeing the cat and visualising or remembering her, or indeed telling a little story for comfort.
do you think he is sad?
it sounds as though he is managing quite well, and this will help him to bear any similar losses in the future, however far ahead those may hopefully be.
Thanks for the replies.
wiggly Yes, I didn't like not having a cat around either so last week we adopted a 10 month old kitten from a rescue. Ds is getting to know her, although she has a very different temperament from our old cat and the fact she is a kitten is an experience for him! He seems happy with her and likes playing with her. He does keep asking "Why do we need a new cat?" and he compares the old and new cat a lot, which is fine and I don't mind talking it through so long as he isn't traumatised by it all!
dyslexic thanks for the tip I'll have a look.
plump I'm very sorry for your loss. Ds was 2.3 when my mum died and he was really close to her, so it was a shock when he just never mentioned it again although I can see he was too young to understand properly. Now he will randomly remember little things about her though, things they did together and places he went with her, which is nice.
traviata that makes sense about not having the vocabularly to distinguish between remembering and things that happen in the present. I don't think he is sad for the most part, aside from little moments like yesterday when he said he wanted the old cat back.
I hope this will help him in the future, he went to both my mum and nan's funerals and was there when we buried the cat and saw her and said goodbye to her for the last time. I've tried to be very matter of fact about it all and I have been careful (and warned others) not to mention or compare being dead to being asleep in any way as I don't want to confuse the two states!
I think you've handled it really well and your DS sounds very sweet and thoughtful. It will be on his mind - just support him in finding a way to deal with it, which you're already doing.
And I'm sorry for your losses - you've had an awful lot to cope with.
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