When our sweet Maya (our beautiful golden retriever) died in March, it was quite traumatic. Months later, we’re still talking about our “MaeMae” and how much we miss her, how much we loved her, and how neurotic she was. Even now, Harlyn will randomly talk about Maya and will say things like, “If I had one wish, I’d wish to bring Maya back.”
We lost Maya just after her seventh birthday. We had no clue it was coming. She’d been a bit “off” but not in the sense that you know a pet’s death is imminent; she was still eating and drinking. She had simply gone to another level of weirdness. We thought it was time to get her some Prozac in the near future. We did not think it was time to say goodbye.
All that to say–we were never expecting to help our kids through the death of a pet right now. We thought we had years left–Maya had just turned seven and Bella is only eight. But there we were anyway, letting the kids know as soon as they got up that during the night, we’d lost one of our best girls. Harlyn was crushed. It wasn’t easy to help her through those early days and weeks–it was the loss of my first pet too–but together, as a family, we helped each other through.
1.Talk about the pet as much or as little as your child wants to.
Since the moment we told the kids, they had questions. They had comments. There was pain. So we let them lead. Maverick’s questioning was limited to “Where’s Maya?” but Harlyn needed to talk and process this more. We let her. I think the more you let kids know it’s okay to talk about their feelings, their memories, and their pet in general, the more they’ll be able to figure this out.
2. Consider a stuffed animal.
To help ease Harlyn’s pain, we bought her a golden retriever stuffed animal from Amazon. She got to pick it out. She slept with it for weeks; and most nights I still find the stuffed animal version of MaeMae in her bed somewhere. That particular stuffed animal (also named Maya) seemed to provide comfort that her existing dolls and stuffies couldn’t.
3. Give them a creative outlet.
Harlyn wrote a little book about Maya during those first few days we had to be without our girl. I think that being able to put pencil to paper was good–even at (then) age 5, she was able to process better through writing and drawing.
Harlyn and I had a previously planned play date the day after Maya died. And I gave her the choice–did she just want to stay home, or would she like to go to her friend’s house? She chose to get out for a bit…and the distraction really helped.
5. Remove whatever items feel right.
When Brandon took Maya to the vet the night she died, she was unable to walk, so we carried her to the van in her doggie bed. Brandon couldn’t bear to take the bed away from Maya at any point because she LOVED that bed (maybe more than she loved us!). But by the following morning, we knew we couldn’t stare at the empty stop Maya’s bed was supposed to be. So we moved Bella’s bed to where Maya’s bed had been, to make the glaring hole go away. I think that whether you’re talking about a crate, a food dish, a bed, anything, you can go at your own pace. You don’t have to take anything away you aren’t ready to remove.
I know this isn’t the most uplifting post ever, but i did want to share these with you because it’s just a hard thing.
We’ll miss you forever, Maya Mae.