Last week our family suffered the loss of a family member and it was something we were not prepared for at all. He was a healthy happy 9-year-old. Although he was not human, we still considered him part of our family. Hobbes was a very special cat who was an absolute love. He thoroughly enjoyed cuddles and affection. Not to mention, he was absolutely wonderful with our two young children.
Hobbes and his brother Calvin were my husband’s present to me our first Christmas after moving into our first apartment together. We immediately fell in love with our two 12 week old fur babies. They were there when we got engaged, married, moved into our first house, and when we had our two human babies.
Then, without warning last week, Hobbes suffered a seizure and passed away shortly afterwards shortly after we put our girls to bed for the night. It was awful to watch and so devastating to lose him. I was thankful to be there for him and comfort him in his final moments, but it is something that I can’t stop replaying in my head over and over again. Not because I think maybe there was something I could have done differently in order to save him, but because it was just so difficult to watch.
With tears in our eyes that night, my husband and I tried to figure out how we were going to tell our 4-year-old the next morning. I worried about how she would take the news and if she would understand. Death is such a difficult concept for young children to understand and I couldn’t help but wonder if this would be somewhat traumatic for her. My youngest is only two so I knew it would not have the same impact. She probably wouldn’t even notice.
After doing a little online research about the best way to tell your child a family pet has died, I knew I had to try to keep it short and simple. I also had to do my best to hold it together while delivering the heartbreaking news. So I got all (well, most) of my crying out that night, praying for the strength I would need to tell her. After telling one of my closest friends what happened with Hobbes as well as my concerns with regards to telling my daughter, she said something that helped give me the courage I needed. “I bet Caroline will be more resilient than you think.”
And she was right.
Of course she was sad when she found out, but that’s to be expected. Together as a family we read a couple of children’s books that deal with death in order to help her understand. She loves reading books so, if nothing else, it certainly provided a distraction.
It has now been a week since our family of 6 became a family of 5. She seems to understand that Hobbes is not coming back but that he will live on in our hearts. She is still the same happy, smiling kid and her world hasn’t turned completely upside down – thank goodness. We certainly miss our sweet kitty, but are thankful for the time we had with him, the memories he gave us, and the little paw prints he left on our hearts.