Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
The five stages of grief. The experts say they can come in any order. They can last years or a few moments. Our dog, Bailey, has been gone for a week now. It hasn’t been easy for our family to move on.
But then there’s Kate – high tailing it straight to acceptance because she’s a mini serial killer with no emotions.
I’m exaggerating about the serial killer part.
She does care. I know this because she has no desire to hunt with Scott and Emma. She doesn’t like seeing animals die. But once you’re dead – well, Kate…she…
she asked me for a cat before we even left the vet hospital parking lot, like, two minutes after Bailey’s final heartbeat.
Me: Did you just ask for a cat?
Kate: Can I? I really want a kitty.
Me: (in tears) Aren’t you sad about Bailey?
Kate: Bailey is gone. Can we get a cat?
Denial. Kate was in denial. She wanted a cat. She couldn’t comprehend Bailey’s death. Her tears would come. The pain is immense and it’s just her way of dealing with it.
I’m not a psychologist. But it sounded good in my head.
Scott’s mom called as soon as we arrived home without Bailey.
Kate: Did you tell Nana Bailey is dead?
Kate: What. Why is Emma crying?
Me: She is sad, Kate. Bailey won’t be coming home.
Kate: Don’t smile, Emma! Don’t you smile at me! Ha!
Scott and I will still catch ourselves using the plural form of dog. Did you let the dogs out? Did you feed the dogs?
Kate: Uh, only one dog now. Stop saying dogs.
It is true – we only have one dog. And Belle wouldn’t eat for days. She also needed one of us to walk her to the grass because her partner in poop was gone. The vet told me Belle needed a lot of attention. Dogs grieve too. Kate overheard my phone conversation.
Kate: Oh Belle Belle! You’re so cute! Yes, you are! You’re so cute and so alive! You’re alive, Belle! Give me some kisses!
Leaving the house is different. Our routines are broken. I spoke to a black jacket on the floor before I took Kate to school. Come on, Bay!
Kate: Ha! It’s a jacket! Mommy, you called the jacket Bailey. That was crazy. She’s dead.
Dumping the vacuum cleaner out makes me tear up. Her fur is still there.
Me: Scott, guess which room had the most Bailey fur? Kate’s!
Kate: Dead hairs!
Scott: KATE. You need to be nice. Bailey was my friend. We will never see her again. Stop talking like this.
Kate: But she’s not here.
Scott: She was still my friend. I lost one of my best friends forever.
Kate: (gives Scott a hug. Looks at me from the corner of her eye. Snaps at me.) I’m going to my room now.
Me: Wait. Kate, are you sad Bailey isn’t here? It’s ok to feel sad.
Kate: (pauses) Yes.
Scott: Are you?
Kate: Ugh, just stop talking about it. (Runs to her room)
I had to buy Belle more food at PetSmart. I knew it would be difficult walking out with just one small bag of dog food. I brought Kate with me on purpose. She would be my rock.
Kate: Let’s go look at the fish!
Kate: I wish I was a fish.
Me: No, you don’t. You would di…uhhhh. Hey, let’s go look at the cats now.
Me: Should we get a cat?
Kate: Yeah, let’s get one. I like the orange one.
Me: I do too. Oh no. A black friday special. Already declawed with shots and ready to go for $50 bucks! And he’s a year old and loves to cuddle! Damnit. Kate, I can’t. Daddy will be upset. We need to wait a little bit before we get another pet. Daddy misses Bailey too much right now. A cat won’t help him.
Kate: Why did Bailey die?
Me: She had a thing called a brain tumor. She wouldn’t have remembered us if we brought her home. She was a different Bailey when we brought her to the hospital. She was dying. The vet can make her go to sleep. She didn’t feel pain when she died.
Kate: Oh. Bailey probably remembers us now. Heaven is where you remember people.
Me: Yeah. She knows who you and Emma are. Ok, let’s get a toy for Belle and get her food and go. Maybe we’ll get a cat another day.
I walked out of PetSmart with Kate.
Ok, she gets it. Her way of dealing with grief is different than most of us. She has accepted. She has tougher skin, that’s all. I can’t wait to tell Scott she’s not a serial killer.
Kate: We will get to see Bailey when we’re dead too.
How do you deal with death? Have you ever had to tell a child about death? How did they handle it? Do you have a pet that is running around with Bailey?