Have you ever had a pet unexpectedly?

Mom blog -

Hold the animal again: a boy with his cat. Photo: Getty Images

Last week the vet confirmed what I had already suspected: that one of our cats is sick. Fortunately, she is not terminally ill, but from now on she must be fed with special feed so that the disease does not progress any further. So she could still lead a beautiful life for the next few years.

I hadn't taken my kids to the vet because I wasn't sure what to expect. Back home I told them what was going on. And my daughter immediately asked if our Büsi was going to die. I said no, "but both of them are slowly getting old and it may be in a few years."

Saying goodbye is important

The children have already seen what it is like when a beloved pet dies with my parents' dog. The death was not unexpected, so we could just go by and say goodbye to her favorite pooch. This farewell was incredibly important to me. Probably because, as a child, I once experienced what it is like not to be able to say goodbye. Our first cat had to be euthanized when I was little. At the time, my parents thought it would be less painful for us children if we didn't know exactly beforehand. But the opposite was the case: I still remember the moment when my father came in the door with the empty cat basket. And my mother sometimes still says that it was a big mistake at the time and that it took my younger sister a long time to come to terms with the story.

Of course, the other way is anything but easy. To hold the animal one more time, knowing that it will be the very last time. To finally let go of it, to have to say goodbye forever. This is incredibly close to you as an adult - and especially to the children. So I'm a little afraid of the day we have to say goodbye to one of our cats. It will be my job to help the children through the pain, to comfort them, to be strong for them, although I will probably feel anything but strong myself. As a parent, do you have to pull yourself together at such moments for the sake of the children? Or are you allowed to cry along unrestrainedly?

Take childish grief seriously

More than “just” a pet: a boy bids farewell to an animal companion. Photo: Getty Images

If you look for good tips on the subject on the Internet, it usually means that you should be honest and show your feelings calmly. So the tears do not have to be suppressed. If you might not have had such a close relationship with the deceased animal yourself, you should still take the child's grief seriously. Because for children, pets are usually equal family members - even if it was “just” a hamster or a mouse. The experts therefore strongly advise against replacing the animal immediately. Because that would symbolize the child that one does not take his grief seriously. After all, it's not sad because they generally no longer have a pet, but because that one animal is gone. And that was unique anyway and is irreplaceable.

After all, the children have often shared a large part of their not so long life with this animal. In fact, it is the case with my children that they do not know life without the cats. The animals were there before they were even born and are a natural part of their family picture. My grown-ups in particular have now realized that they won't be here forever. And she has already spun the thought further and pondered that none of our families had died in her entire life and how lucky she was that even her great-grandmommy was still alive.

After we talked about it, she immediately painted a picture for the great-grandmommy. And she has also showered the cats with a lot of affection over the past few days. As if she suddenly realized that you never really know how much of the precious time you have together.

PS: The picture book “Adieu, Herr Muffin” deals with the subject and can help children deal with the loss of their pet.

Jeanette Kuster is a mother of two, a journalist and communications specialist. She has worked as an editor for various media in the lifestyle and culture departments. She lives with her family near Zurich.