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The PANK Perspective: Pet Loss & Explaining Death To Children

The PANK Perspective (Professional Aunt, No Kids) – by Diane Morris

My brother and his wife bought a pure bred Golden Retriever the year before they got married. Their dog was beautiful; long blonde hair, big paws and large brown eyes. She was rebellious and always got into trouble. She liked to eat food off the counter, maul you when you walked through the door and bark incessantly at the mailman. She seemed to mellow out a bit as she aged, but remained playful – especially with my nephew.

When he was born, the dog took to him. They became buddies; curling up on the couch watching cartoons together, camping out in a homemade fort of blankets and furniture cushions and swimming in the lake together in the summer. My nephew considered the dog to be one of his first friends.

Suddenly and without warning, the dog passed away while playing with my parent’s dog. The vet said it was a heart attack. My poor Sister-In-Law was home alone with her two boys when it happened. My parents were away, my brother and I at work. My SIL had to explain to my nephew what happened.

“Sydney got sick and went to heaven” she first told him. Questions ensued.

Thinking later that telling him that the dog was sick wasn’t the best choice of explaining what happened. She feared that telling him that would cause him worry whenever he caught a cold, or someone in the family fell ill. So, she told him that it was simply the dog’s time to go to heaven. She described a place of peace above the clouds and that Sydney would be watching over him, but wouldn’t be back to play. He was confused.

When I saw him the next day to give my condolences to my brother & SIL, my nephew blurted out, “Aunt Dee, we don’t have a dog anymore.” I told him that I knew and that I was sorry that Sydney had to leave. He just looked at me and then asked if I wanted to play tag. I chased him around the living room wondering if he missed being chased by the dog.

For a few weeks after, he didn’t mention the dog much. We figured that since he’s so young, losing the family dog didn’t affect him as much as it had his parents who had raised her over the past 6 years. Then one day he asked his Mom, “Can Sydney come home and play now?” With tears in her eyes she explained to him once again that Sydney was gone and living in heaven. She asked him if he had any questions about heaven and he said no. Then just moments later he said, “I wish I had wings like Buzz Lightyear so I could fly above the clouds and visit Sydney.”

He understood that heaven was a place above the clouds, that he needed to fly there, and that Sydney was there. But did he understand that Sydney had died?

It was heartbreaking to hear the news of the sudden death of a young dog, and to hear the honest and innocent wish of my nephew. But, there is a part of me that is thankful that his first experience with death was from the family dog and not from a grandparent. Trying to explain to a child that they will never see someone they love again has got to be one of the most difficult conversations to have with your kid. I think my SIL did a good job and pet loss was a learning experience for her to prepare her for more conversations and explanations to come about life.

How did you handle explaining death to a child? What does death look like to a 4 year old? How do you prepare for that explanation?

 

About the Author:

Diane Morris is a PANK; Professional Aunt, No Kids and works for Mabel’s Labels as the Sales Coordinator. She’s an Aunt to two boys, and an “Auntie” to her boyfriend’s niece and nephew. She’s a sucker for romance, country music and peanut butter.

What’s new with Mabel?

It’s always busy around Mabelhood HQ and we wanted to share some of the fun stuff that we’ve been up to this month.

A very cute bunny icon hopped its way into the Mabel’s Labels family of designs, just in time for spring!

The Community Relations Committee challenged each department to battle it out in an April food drive for Mission Services Opportunity Centres in Hamilton.  The fact is 35,000 people in our community go without adequate daily food and 36% of those people are children.  Everyone can help make a difference by donating what they can.

As always Julie Cole is super busy, you may have spotted her on CanadaAM on April 7.  She was part of a parenting panel discussion.   The following morning, Julie and her son Mack were on CHCH discussing autism.

In the spirit of earth day this week, today we’re out beautifying our adopted park (Jackson Park) and heading back to the office for our first BBQ of the season!  We hope everyone gets a chance to head outside and enjoy the beginning of this beautiful spring weather!

Fundraiser Spotlight: Bearspaw Preschool Society

Over the years, we’ve had a variety of organizations host a fundraiser with us to assist in generating funds for their cause. We felt it was time to shine the spotlight on some of the amazing people and organizations running a Mabel’s Labels Fundraiser.

Bearspaw Preschool Society – located in Calgary, Alberta – has been hosting a successful fundraiser for their not-for-profit organization since 2009. The fundraiser has helped them earn hundreds of dollars over the years to assist with buying supplies and funding day trips for the morning and afternoon programs. Bearspaw Preschool Society runs programs for children ages 3 & 4 and is operated by a five-member executive board; all of which are elected parent volunteers.

Bearspaw thinks that a Mabel’s Labels Fundraiser makes the most sense for a preschool, as it’s the first time many kids and parents are coming into a school environment. They believe that ensuring the students’ items are properly labeled and easily identifiable makes life easier for the parents, children and teachers. They also like that they can promote their campaign throughout the year through their community monthly magazine as well as in an introductory letter that each parent receives upon registration.

Their advice to other organizations running a Mabel’s Labels fundraiser is to actively promote it, and remind parents how beneficial labels are for all sorts of school gear.

Do you want to support Bearspaw Preschool Society? Shop for your Mabel’s Labels here.

If you want to sign your preschool up to earn extra funds, visit www.signup.mabelslabels.com

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