A lot harder than I expected

I cried twice while reading this book aloud to Kyle.

Teaching Kyle the concept of death through picture books turned out to be a lot harder for me than I expected. I thought that it will manageable for the both of us to start with books illustrating the death of pets, but it proved out to be otherwise. 

This book gave a strikingly realistic and poignant picture of a child coping with the loss of a pet, and it just brought a plethora of memories, especially to the day that the family had to make a tough choice to put our family dog, Shawn to sleep. When I was midway reading the book to Kyle, I had flashbacks of the moment when my sister, dad, hb, mom, Kyle and I were huddled around Shawn, moments before he got the euthanasia shot from the vet. And the tears started flowing.

All I could say to Kyle when we finished reading the book was, "Its so sad…" Kyle was rather amused to see me cry while reading the book for the first time, and insisted that I read the book a second time that evening to see my response. I didn’t think that I would cry so easily the second time around, but I did. I told Kyle that it is ok to be sad when you miss someone.

I cried again while writing this post and reading this account again after 4 years, from my sisters now-defunct blog.

Kyle had little emotional attachment to Shawnie, as he was barely about 2 years old then. The only loss he has experienced so far is the death of one of his hamsters, Doh Doh, which he has little concern for. So he could not understand and found it rather amusing that, "Mommy cried after reading a picture book with me."

Death is a hard subject to broach, a lot harder than I expected. But I will still go ahead with helping Kyle learn about it, as it will not get any easier down the road if we ever have to experience a loss.

My extended family has since gotten a new dog, barely a few months after Shawn died, and we all love him dearly, but somehow it is not quite the same. Hb once said (after the loss of his extended family dog) that he will not want to have a dog ever in our nuclear family, as it will be too hard to experience the loss of a loved one every 14-15 years or so.

I will getting hold of this book Dog Heaven by Cynthian Rylant for myself the next time at the library.


In loving memory of Shawn

1994 – 2008

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  1. I would think that it is rather difficult for kid that young to fully understand or learn the emotional part regarding death. Hence for now I guess I would only let my kids experience the emotional part naturally when there is such a time in future…. At that time, I would hope that I could be by their side to help them go through the experience and move on eventually. For now perhaps I would only teach them the science aspect of death.

    Rachel Reply:

    Yes, it is easier to rationalize death especially when there is little emotions involved. But I think there is no harm reading picture books about how pets or even people die, it can sort of a intro to the concept. So when there is real life experience, it does not become so much of a struggle for the child to comes to terms with it.

  2. We used to have four little rabbits which we got them when they were really little and they stayed with us for years and the longest-lived rabbit in our family was 9-10 years old who died late last year. It is hard to get over death of pets we love so much. It is much harder getting over the death of our loved ones – guess this is what makes us human :)

    Rachel Reply:

    It’s tough enough to go through the death of pets, especially for our kids.

  3. I have this to share with your husband: why anticipate mourning the death of a pet for 14-15 years when you can live the 14-15 years celebrating its life with you? Remember that the tears that you shed are not merely for the loss of Shawn; it is for the memories you and your family made with him.
    Winston Tay´s last blog post ..Staying Ahead in Your Child’s Safety

    Rachel Reply:

    Tell that to an emo-person. I think it is a lot harder to deal with even death of a favorite pet when some of us are more sensitive and emotional than others, so it can better to avoid it, then to allow ourselves to experience it over and over.

  4. It is a concept difficult to grasp esp for a child who has never experience it before but personally I find it easier to explain it through a pet. We used to have a fighting fish and praying mantis. My elder boy was very sad when his praying mantis died but I am glad he is brave enough to ask for another one after knowing that they will eventually die. I agree with your friend Winston that we should be celebrating life more than anticipating death…the one who fear death, fear life…quote from Mark Twain

    Rachel Reply:

    Anticipating life for me means that I talk about taboo subjects that most parents like to avoid, like death or illnesses. I think my child needs to understand the facts of life and be taught how to manage it. It is a lot easier through picture books as it gives us opportunities to discuss it, and many books depict the feelings and stages of grief that one goes through when death is experienced through the pet or someone else. It lets the child know that it is a normal process, and there is important to hold on to the memories but still move on over time.

  5. I agree, it’s really hard to say goodbye. But sometimes it helps to hold on to the memories.
    Eemelia´s last blog post ..Giving Thanks

    Rachel Reply:

    Yes it is. But life does get difficult often, regardless whether it may be through losses like that, or other difficult trials we face. As a parent it is important to share and give our child the hope that live can bring but also prepare and help them to experience the sadness that we might experience through life. Not to shelter them altogether, but help them to manage it when it does come.