Teaching Kids to Feel It All
Dear Annie: I enjoy reading your column in the Indianapolis Star. Today, I read the column, "How Do I Tell My Kids Our Dog Died?" I believe you were right on target when you wrote that one should avoid saying that the pets just went to sleep. After that suggestion, though, I think your answer fits into a narrow theological belief.
My grandmother used to say that "heaven and hell are here on earth." That is to say, she believed, in a sense, that we make our own heaven or hell in this life, and there is no hereafter. I, too, believe that. Not all of your readers believe in heaven or hell or any afterlife.
Others do believe in heaven and hell, but not for animals. In any case, a theology where animals and people are happily reunited after death is not inclusive to all readers. In our family, if I were to say that, I would be lying. When our pets die, we are sad. We bury them in the backyard. Being sad helps us in life, because it is important for us to experience and recognize all emotions.
I would suggest that "Explaining to Our Children" tell their children that we are very sad, and that that is OK; that animals, and even people, all die, and we are sad about that. And beyond that, we all can teach our children about our religious or secular beliefs. -- A Loyal Reader
Dear Loyal Reader: Thank you so much for your letter and perspective. I love the idea of encouraging children to feel their feelings, to recognize what feeling they are feeling, so that they can process any type of loss. If more adults learned how to do that as children, we would have a calmer society.
Dear Annie: This is in response to "Explaining to Our Children," who wondered how to tell their young children about the death of their dog. My husband and I had a wonderful golden retriever before having children. Then we had two daughters. When the children were in elementary school, they kept asking for a cat. We were not "cat people."
We told the girls a fib -- that we couldn't have a cat because we had a dog. That seemed to suffice. When the dog was 14, he became quite ill and frail, and we had to make the decision to put him down. We were devastated and worried about how the girls would respond. Their response: "We don't have a dog anymore; can we get a cat now?" Children are very resilient. More so than adults. -- Cats and Dogs
Dear Cats and Dogs: Losing a pet is difficult for any of us at any age. You are correct that adults hurt as well, and perhaps even more than children. So, did you get a cat?
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to email@example.com.