Handling Losing A Cherished Family Pet The Exceptional Way

It was a busy time with back to school for Michael and I last week. Friday night was especially nice to kick back at a park up the street from us, and when we bumped into a friend, staying even later was even better. What was not fun though, was coming back to Michael’s low blood sugar and him getting to bed extra late, and the realization that our beloved family cat, Princess, 14 years old, was terminally ill. Dad and I had suspected for awhile that she was slowing down. I had privately thought to myself that she probably would not make the year, but had no idea how sick she was. Yes, she had not been joining us upstairs as often. Yes, she was eating less and seemed less energetic. Yes, she moved with difficulty, but she was ninety-one years old in human years. It was understandable. It was only on Friday evening, after Michael finally went to bed, that I heard her moans and saw just how ill she was, that Dad and I realized the next day would be a challenging one.

Saturday dawned early for me. I immediately went in search of Princess. When I finally found her hiding behind the living room couch refusing even water,  I went to get Dad. Together we decided he would take her to the vet and we would prepare Michael for the worst. Princess may have to be put down. We would run tests and see if we could save her, but if she was too sick the best gift we could give her was peace.  Of course, initially Michael questioned how could a doctor kill her? Don’t doctors save lives. We then had a very brief euthanasia discussion with Michael, speaking of how it is less cruel to help an animal end its suffering than have it stay alive in extreme pain and discomfort. Next, came the questions of heaven and hell.

“Will Princess go to heaven Mommy? Is there a heaven for animals?”
“I think there is Michael. I think there is a heaven for humans and animals.”

“What do you think she is going to do in heaven Mommy?”
“I think she will be doing all the things she did as a young cat living with us- chasing birds, mice, playing with her cat toys, cuddling with us, and enjoying napping in the sunniest areas of the house.”
“Will she have someone to play with?”
“I think she will play with her brothers and sisters. Maybe even my childhood cat Frisky.”
Michael seemed pleased by this, but commented how he was going to miss Princess.

“Me too honey.”

“Are you going to cry all day Mommy?”
“No, but you may see me crying from time to time. Remember, it’s ok to cry and let out our feelings. And please tell me how you feel. Talking about what bothers us makes all the difference.”

It was good we prepared him. After many back and forth conversations with the veterinarian, he gave us the bad news. She had a mass so large in her stomach that it had actually pushed all her organs to one side of her body, hence, the difficulty she had in walking.  He suspected cancer, but could not do an x-ray. She almost died when he tried. Like all cats, she hid her pain well until she could no longer hide it. Then she showed us what she needed. It was an incredibly emotional weekend for all of us, and we are all still feeling the roller coaster effect of losing our furry family member. But Michael’s maturity in asking questions about Princess, even commenting when he sees me getting misty eyed or admitting he misses her, is showing me how much he has matured in the past year. Gone is the little boy thinking only of himself. Gone are the behaviors or anger and not seeing what is around him. He is learning that we are all connected, human and animal, and when he asked if we could get another cat and maybe a dog one day in the future, I knew his heart was open to loving in a beautiful mature way.

Michael has also helped Dad and I see the importance of animals in many exceptional families, and how they can help exceptional children explore all kinds of thoughts and feelings. The bond between human and animal is really quite extraordinary. It can help pave the way and make for easier human interactions.

Exceptional Parents, have you and your Exceptional Child bonded in a closer way through loving and losing a family pet? Yes, the pain is great when they depart from this earth, but the love they bring to an Exceptional Child and their parents, is often well worth the time and effort needed to care for and love a pet. Nurture your child’s relationship with a pet if your family has one, and if not, consider adopting an animal to help bring out your child’s compassion, caring and love for something beyond themselves. Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with Autism, ADHD, OCD  and Type 1 Diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com

2 thoughts on “Handling Losing A Cherished Family Pet The Exceptional Way

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I try to remember to stay as calm as I can when I answer Michael’s questions. And yes, he is able now to look past himself and has developed a lot of empathy over the years. It has been a learning process for both of us. You will get there too.


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