The Biscuit (and family) suffered a terrible loss over the last week. Sadly, our dear, sweet cat of over a decade was tragically killed following her getting out of the house, getting lost in the cold, and getting picked up by animal "control" officers. In the most horrific of circumstances, she was sheltered by a kind family for the night, taken by animal control (so she could be found by her family), and was then killed within only a couple of hours of them taking her into custody. Although I ran to her rescue, I was too late and never even had a chance to see her. It happened very quickly and was a terrible circumstance filled with loss, followed by happiness and hope, followed by tragic loss.
I tell you this to offer some context for the truly tragic and sudden loss and the nature of the grief and absence that we are feeling. In keeping with the spirit of this blog, I will focus less on the inhumanity and anger I have related to the cruel circumstances that befell her and focus more on the toddler issue at hand: How do you talk to a toddler about the death of a beloved pet?
I'm not a psychologist or a doctor, so I am only sharing my perspective with the hopes that it might give someone helpful hints in the event you are faced with this (and I truly hope you never are). I've done my best to read what I could on the Internet about tips for dealing with loss for toddlers, which basically affirmed what is common sense and what I knew to do: tell the truth, but limit the information and find a way for the toddler to connect to the loss at their level.
The Biscuit loved, loved, loved his pet kitty. She was "his" pet. He held her, petted her, called her, scolded her, chased her, caught her, kissed her, fed her, made messes with her, played with her, apologized to her (when he was bad), and knew her as another member of our family. She was part of our routine every day and the sudden shake-up in our routine hit us both pretty hard. I knew I had to address what had happened to her after the tragedy, but the grief of the situation made it quite hard to even get the words out.
I waited a day (after it happened) before I told the Biscuit. When I decided it was time, I held him close and said that his kitty had died and gone to heaven, and that she was happy there. I then told him that I was sad right now and that it was okay for him to be sad if he misses her too. I also told him that if he thinks about her, it's okay to say, "I miss [kitty's name]". Then I told him that we could say a little prayer together to let her know how much we love her and miss her. He hugged me after, though I don't think he was truly understanding it all... but was a toddler consoling his mommy. I talked to him about planting something in the garden that we can remember her by, but he wasn't interested.
In the days that followed, when there were times in our routine when we normally saw our kitty, the Biscuit would say, "I miss [kitty's name]." I would follow with, I miss her too, love. Also, I added a few photos around the house of the kitty so he can still see her. He often asks to look at the one I keep on my desktop (PC). He smiles when he sees her.
He doesn't mention her any less yet, it has only been a week, but I expect that eventually the routine we know will no longer hold her memory so close. The thought of that makes me quite sad, but I know it is unavoidable. All in all, I think he's doing great.
Rest in peace, sweet girl. I'm so sorry you were alone. Thank you for the faithful love. We miss you more every day.