Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mourning the loss of a pet and new beginnings

“He held her and rocked her, believing, rightly or wrongly, that Ellie wept for the very intractability of death, its imperviousness to argument or to a little girl’s tears; that she wept over its cruel unpredictability; and that she wept because of the human being’s wonderful, deadly ability to translate symbols into conclusions that were either fine and noble or blackly terrifying. If all those animals had died and been buried, then Church could die
(any time!)
and be buried; and if that could happen to Church, it could happen to her mother, her father, her baby brother. To herself. Death was a vague idea; the Pet Sematary was real. In the texture of those rude markers were truths which even a child’s hands could feel.”
― Stephen King,
Pet Sematary

Being a goth blog, I think it is quite appropriate to write about death without worrying about my readers becoming squeamish over the subject! As most of you have read on this blog, last December, my beloved cat Pippin passed away. It was a week before Christmas and it broke our hearts. Obviously, my six year old took it very hard. It was hard to tell Philip the bad news the next morning (he passed away at night), especially since I was up most of the night myself in tears. I still remember how he cried on my shoulder and how much it hurt me that I had to be the one to break his heart. I had to be stoic but inside, I was screaming. I knew he needed me to be strong because this is the first time where Philip was old enough to comprehend the concept of death. When he was a toddler, our other cats passed away. It was sad and tragic but he didn't quite understand. This time, he did but he wanted me to bring Pippin back and I had to explain, that I cannot do such a thing. It was hard to watch him understand the finality of it all and all I can do is help him through it as best I could while I too was in shock and disbelief.

In true Pippin fashion, he passed away a week before Christmas. Imagine how devastating it would be for us if he passed on during Christmas? Again, in true Pippin fashion, he waited for me to leave to go to my office party. He knew that watching him die would be too much for me to bear. He passed on quietly on my chair.

I remember allowing my son watch me grieve. I thought it was important for him to see me cry and to allow him to comfort me. I think Pippin would have wanted me to use his death as a teaching tool so I did. I took it as an opportunity to let Philip do the comforting and I thought since I am his mother and always the strong one, it was important for him to see me vulnerable. That he wasn't the only one affected by the cat being gone. It was nice being comforted but I bet it made him feel good to be able to make me feel better. I wanted to also teach him that it was NORMAL to be in mourning because in today's world, the concept of sadness, loss, and grief is often swept under the rug. It is not a dirty secret! Mourning is healthy. In a way, mourning our cat brought us closer together because I remember how we would often wipe away our own tears in order to console the other.

I remember being contacted by the school for his behavior. He started acting up in class. It was hard to tell a grieving child that while he is hurting inside over a loss of a pet is OK, it is not acceptable to do certain things.

I would often listen to his Pippin stories and smile at them. That cat was with me for a long time. Philip knew him all his life and I realized that he wasn't only important to me, he was to everyone else in my family. It made me happy  to realize that he didn't just touch my life in a positive way but he touched others as well. In fact, many family members and friends shared their favourite Pippin stories with me!

I encouraged Philip to talk about this at school. He came home and told me that his best friend was able to offer him some comfort. Apparently, his best friend's bird died and he understood how Philip felt. That was important to me because he was learning to reach out to his peers. I knew that his friends are important to him and it was reassuring that he was getting comfort from his best friend.

The winter came and went. By spring, the pain subsided and I was able to share some of my Pippin stories with Philip without completely breaking down. I told him what the cat was like as a kitten (this was before Philip was even thought of) and showed him some old photos. It was the first time we were able to talk about the cat without choking up. Philip admitted that he was still sad over Pippin dying and I took it as a great teaching tool as a way to show him what death really is. I told him that the cat was still alive in our memories. We can look back at all the good times we had with him and smile. It is OK to be sad sometimes and miss him but knowing what the type of friend Pippin was, he wouldn't want us to be sad about him all the time. He would want us to remember him and be grateful for all the good times he gave us. He would want us to be happy because all his life, he did everything to make us feel that way.  It doesn't mean that someone, (pets included) is gone that they are truly gone. You cannot erase that person completely, especially when they meant so much to you. They can still be alive in our memories.

Many people don't get grief. They don't get that when someone important to you dies, you can't just pick up the pieces and get on with your life. You hold onto something they gave you. I don't want to live in a world where we pretend to be happy all the time because they world isn't like that. Nothing is black and white. I think it is important to talk about death, to talk about the happy memories because that is where the healing begins. I think it is healthy to remember people (and pets!) that helped shaped our lives. I think it is healthy to cry and miss that person but most importantly, it is important that to remember the good times and not just the act of dying. The Death Tarot card symbolizes re-birth. All good things must come to an end but with everything ending, there are new beginnings. Seeing that Philip accepted that the cat would want us to be happy and no longer feels ashamed with sharing memories of him, I felt like it was appropriate to have a new beginning in our family. We adopted our dog, Storm. No, she will never take Pippin's place but she is around to give us new memories while we honor Pippin's. She has brought so much happiness in this short time. It is OK to look back but it is also important to look at the days ahead. Pippin would have wanted it that way.

“May be she’ll learn something about what death really is, which is where the pain stops and the good memories begin. Not the end of life but the end of pain.”
― Stephen King,
Pet Sematary


  1. Awesome post. Death is a terribly difficult subject for children to grasp and it sounds like your little one is dealing with it appropriately. I didn't experience loss until my grandfather died at age 9 and I didn't know what to do. I just sort of endured it, I don't think I cried. If anything I was terrified he'd come back and haunt us (I was imaginative). Then my grandmother got a puppy to cope with the loss, it came from a farm (we suspect now a puppy mill) and it sadly succumbed to some illness it was born with. It was only three months old. I remember dropping it accidentally, maybe only ten inches into the snow because my little arms had trouble holding him. I honestly felt like that minor accident ultimately lead to his death. I was mortified and harbored guilt for the longest time over it. My family did not address grief properly and I wish we had, I ended up withdrawing and hiding my grief whenever I encountered loss. Thankfully my husband has become my shoulder to cry on so I don't have to keep the sorrow pent up inside any more.

    1. I am so sorry you had that happen to you. *hugs*

  2. A very important post about how to help kids learn about life and death, which is a part of it. Pippin will live in your hearts forever and when Philip is an adult, you and he will still reminisce about this beloved pet, I know it.



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