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How can I explain the death of a pet?

(12 Posts)
mumgoingcrazy Sat 11-May-13 12:54:53

Our very old rabbit has cancer and we don't know if she has days or months to live. Dd2 (5.11yrs) knows but she doesn't really understand. This could be a very good way to get her to understand the whole concept of death I'm just not sure how to go about it.

How have you dealt with this situation? Any ideas welcome. TIA

PolterGoose Sat 11-May-13 13:31:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

devilinside Sat 11-May-13 14:46:03

I don't know, we just had our beloved moggy put to sleep, and DS (asd) couldn't give two hoots. He cheered when I told him. I think being upfront and honest is best. DD is a bit upset, but is consoled by the thought of a new kitten in September

moondog Sat 11-May-13 15:08:06

Social stories very useful

Our neighbours' cat died recently, we don't have pets due to asthma allergies but these cats were very friendly, but now only Cher left. wink NT DS1 was quite upset but DS2 with ASD is very matter of fact and seems interested but unbothered.

mumgoingcrazy Sat 11-May-13 18:52:59

Thank you all. Dd2 is quite new to emotions, esp the sad one. She's only felt it a handful of times so we'll see how we go. I'll definitely have a go at a social story, I've also ordered a couple of books. I guess it's good that we have this time to prepare her, and can be more of a thought through process for her.

We thought about having a little funeral and a memorial stone with flowers in the garden too as something visual to help her grasp the concept. I thought she could visit this place and think of something happy about the rabbit. I don't know if this is a good idea or not. Does seem OTT for a rabbit.

Dd1 has been very upset today so dd2 has been asking a lot of questions, I'm thinking it could be a good lesson for her, and far better it be a rabbit than a person.

moondog Sat 11-May-13 18:53:42

I think a ritual and a tangible reminder is a lovely idea and makes it more real.

mumgoingcrazy Sat 11-May-13 19:56:42

Thank you, that's what we'll do then.

Also, sorry to hear about your cats poltergoose, devil and Ellen. It's heartbreaking when they go.

moosemama Sat 11-May-13 22:11:57

We lost our dog to cancer a fortnight ago. Like you, we knew beforehand, but unfortunately things came to head and we had to have her pts while the dcs were at school - so although they knew she was going to die, they didn't know it was going to be that day.

We previously lost our other old girl in December 2010 (also to cancer) when ds1 (ASD) was 8.

First time he was really upset, despite not being attached to the dog and seemingly never even really noticing her existence. We prepared him carefully beforehand and told him she wouldn't be coming home and that the vets were going to giver her some medicine to help her sleep and she would die painlessly in her sleep. When I got home without her he just kept asking over and over where she was - I think because he couldn't grasp the facts of what happened to her physical body, iyswim. He was very restless and on edge, with lots of questions for a few days, but it seemed to pass fairly quickly.

We had her cremated and took her ashes to scatter on her/our favourite beach and I think that helped a lot, probably by giving him some closure - so I think your idea of a little funeral and memorial stone is really good.

He is now 11 and this time has handled it much better. He is sad, but accepted that she was poorly, in a lot of pain and she needed to leave her body behind.

In fact it was my 4 year old dd (NT) who struggled, again, mostly about what would happen to her body. We explained that she didn't want to stay in her body anymore, because it was too poorly and painful and wasn't going to get better and then dd had a bit of a wobbly about not wanting to leaver her own body behind, but was ok with a lot of reassurance that she wouldn't ever have to leave it if she didn't want to and if she did it would only be when she was very very old - even older than mummy or grandma!

moosemama Sat 11-May-13 22:15:46

Sorry, first of all I meant to say I am sorry to hear about your rabbit.

Secondly, I should have explained that when we lost our first dog and ds was 8 he had extremely poor emotional awareness and was unable to express or scale his emotions effectively.

Since then we have been working hard with him on emotional literacy and that probably had a lot to do with him being able to handle things better the second time around.

mumgoingcrazy Sun 12-May-13 20:11:50

Thanks moosemama, DD2 has very poor emotional awareness too so although I do feel sad for our little bunny I'm also thinking what a good opportunity to teach her. The fact that Dd1 has been sobbing is also helping DD2 grasp that this is a sad time, she has even cried herself although Im not sure that she isnt just copying DD1.

I'm sorry to hear about your dog, they really leave a gap in the family when they go.

What sort of thig have you done on emotional literacy?

moosemama Sun 12-May-13 21:58:07

We did some work with him around what emotions different smiley/emoticons represented then started a feelings diary, which to begin with was just three rows of emoticon/smileys on a page. Ds had to circle the one he felt most described however he was feeling at the time he was completing it. He filled this in with his teacher at school, after morning break, after lunch and at the end of the day.

It took a while for him to start to manage it, but when he was consistently being able to identify an emoticon, we moved onto trying to assign an emotion word to the emoticon. It took a long time for him to be able to do it and for the longest time all he would say was, happy, sad or OK, but we did lots of work with him on feelings and emotional language - pointing out when we felt different emotions etc.

Then we added a line for him to explain why he was feeling that emotion.

At that point the Ed Psych got involved and decide it was time to start scaling the emotions. So they set up a scale from 0-10 and assigned what each point on the scale represented eg 0 the worst, 5 OK, 10 Ecstatic. They did this by laying a piece of string out on the carpet and asking him to stand at different points on the rope to represent how he feels when he eg is going to legoland or has to do handwriting practice (two opposite extremes of the emotion scale for my ds wink).

He had to decide at what point on the scale his emotion fell. To begin with we just got 0's or 10's and there was no middle ground - in fact with the way school was back then it was mostly 0's and he would scale the whole day according to one bad thing that upset him. Then very gradually some 5's started to creep in and with a lot of support eventually some more numbers.

From there he has gone on to starting to realise that he feels different emotions throughout the day and the strength or power of his emotions also changes through the day.

We started this when he was just coming up for 8. He's just turned 11 now and has reached the point where he sometimes actually wants to split each entry down, as he recognises eg that maths was horrible so that's a 0 the worst, but then he got some free reading time and that's a 7. Huge progress. smile

He now completes the diary first thing in the morning, when he arrives at school, after break, after lunch and at the end of the day. It has helped him to get a handle on his feelings and that not every day is 'the worst ever', but also helps us to gauge his feelings and stress/anxiety levels. The morning one is particularly useful for school to get a baseline of how he is feeling and therefore how the day might proceed, iyswim.

Some people have found this book useful.

and I have also found this feeling and emoticon keyring useful as well.

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