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Teaching Kids About Loss
|Jake & Nick attended their first funeral this past weekend. The fact that it was Kerry's great aunt (her Dad's cousin's mother) made it a little easier since they didn't have the emotional element that would have been present with an immediate family member.
Although we didn't bring them to the calling hours, Kerry and I thought that the funeral mass would be a good opportunity to teach the boys about one of life's harsh realities. The questions were aplenty..... especially at the burial site. But, soon enough, the boys were back to running around with their cousins in the Harris funeral home family center.... all remnants of the sad occasion whisked away on the wings of their wonderfully short attention spans.
The other night, I had to put Nick in his room for screwing around while the kids were getting ready for bed. When I went in to talk to him, he was crying holding a picture of he and I. Given that Nick has had a history of being overly dramatic (we used to call him "Johnny Drama" when he was younger), I suspected that this was yet another case of Nick's patented "Pity Party". When I asked him about it, however, he said, "I just wanted to keep this picture to remember you when you die."
Although I calmed him down by reassuring him that no one was going to be dying, I couldn't help but wonder if we had made a mistake by bringing him to the funeral. As I explained that Kerry's great aunt was almost 100 years old, I dreaded that Nick (often too smart for his own good) would ask how old my Mom was when she passed away.
Last night, exams at the vet revealed that Booch has lymphoma and, in all likelihood, does not have much time. We're trying a last ditch effort of a medication that may improve his steadily declining condition, albeit temporarily. But, I think that Kerry and I are coming to the realization that this is more for our good than for his.
Part of my own coping with this involves the thought of how much worse it would be if I was watching one of my kids suffer like this. The line of distinction between child and pet is an easy one to make for a parent. But, I really don't know how the kids are going to take it. To them, Booch is a sibling. He has been there their entire life and, to them, this distinction is not as easy to make.
I guess another harsh reality is that, no matter how you try to prepare your kids for something, sometimes they're going to have to go through it to truly understand it. All we can do is make sure that we're standing next to them while they do.
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