As an ardent animal lover, the death, the loss of an animal has always been heartbreaking to me.
As a mother, I was concerned as to how I should react in front of my children. I’m a blubberer, you see, but I needed now to think of how I could help them through the loss of an animal without it seeming that it was the end of the world.
I was shielded from anything that represented death as a child. I didn’t know where my maternal Grandfather had gone and no one else seemed to know. Several years later my paternal Grandfather went missing too and all this was a great mystery to me.
My first experience of death came when I was very little and our dog was killed on the road. I know that I cried a lot. My next dog was a wanderer and when he disappeared my parents resolved that he had wandered off and would come back. He did come back, months later he wandered into my school yard, I very happily took him home. My bunny went missing and Mum and Dad told me he had burrowed under the fence. I combed the neighbourhood in search of Peter bunny, but never found him.
My real experience of death came as a profound experience. My second baby boy died 2 days after birth. The doctor hit me up with Valium and my family planned and attended the funeral without me. The culture in my family of not talking and dealing with death, left me shattered. My thoughts went back to the past generations, people in my family that I had not been able to say goodbye to. I am not criticizing my family, it was their way but to me, it made everything superficial and unreal.
I determined that I was going to deal with life circumstances in a very different way.
As my children grew we had so many beautiful family pets who were so loved. I taught them to be involved, to say goodbye each according to his or her own way. We had family funerals for each furry friend that passed on. They built little altars, wrote little stories in their own way. They decorated the altar with candles and lit them and sometimes placed memorabilia. We all cried together and celebrated the animals’ life together. Through our tears we would laugh at the naughty things the cat or dog did and reminisced on what we loved about them. We would put their collars on the mantel piece with a picture and talk about them until life returned to normal.