Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Grief Counseling

I'm needing some advice. My dear 4 year old daughter is mourning the loss of Seymour again. It seems being in the home that Seymour used to dwell in and whose yard contains the grave marked by a headstone is proving to be too much for her little mind to deal with. For those late to the game these are the facts:

  • Seymour is my childhood dog who passed away BEFORE Olivia was even born
  • She's seen him in pictures and has always asked questions about him
  • Since someone told her she was in heaven before she was in my belly (worst idea ever) she's convinced she knew Seymour in heaven
  • She often remarks that she misses him at random times and I just kind of roll my eyes and let her be sad. She occasionally cries about him.
  • In summary, my daughter cries and misses a dog that she never knew on Earth but is convinced she knew before she was born.
So since we have been in TN she has upped the ante with the bereavement.
  • She is concerned about his whereabouts. She thinks he is in doggy heaven and has told me emphatically she NEVER wants to go to heaven, only doggy heaven to be with Seymour
  • She has cried multiple times and says she misses him so much
  • She has said that she just wishes she could pet him
  • She has made Grammy go to the grave with her and move the stone to see what's underneath.
  • She has asked if we can dig his bones up.
  • She has requested to see pictures of Seymour and then asked that Grammy PAINT A PICTURE of one of the photos....which Grammy attempted and is an awesome piece of art.
I'm trying to not laugh every time she says something. I've told her it's ok to be sad. I've said that maybe we will see him someday in heaven. I've reminded her that he died before she was born. Maybe this is the wrong approach. Maybe I need to tell her to stop being weird. Or maybe she's just being hilariously dramatic. And I should just play along....which we kind of are doing I think. It is pretty amusing. And I'm hanging that painting on our fridge when we get home for sure! Anyway if any of you out there have experience in dealing with faux grief over a beloved animal that your child never met....please chime in, but I can also see how my comment box MIGHT just remain empty. ;)

Here's to you Seymour....still making this home more interesting even 6 years after you've passed away!


Shannon said...

No advice to offer here, just lots of laughter from reading this. And thinking this will be a great story about her childhood to tell when she's older :)

Anonymous said...

This is about the age kids learn that death is a forever goodbye. This is probably her way of understanding. You guys are doing an excellent job helping her! It takes some time. Hannah is about the same with the situation. -April B.

The Moores said...

I don't have any advice either, but thanks for sharing so I can learn from your experience! Death is a tricky subject for 4 year olds. Good luck!

Michelle said...

Crazy, after Jake died last summer, technically was my mom's dog we got when I was in high school, Cooper told Maddie not to worry cause he would just rise up again.....but they haven't talked about it since so I've got nothing for you.....have you asked her why it bothers her so much?


Maybe your parent need to get a new dog so that she can start making memories with a new dog at their house. Or go visit a different dog at a neighbors house.

KtsDad said...

KT's parents do NOT need to get another dog :-) KT's parents

Valerie said...

We've had some similar issues with Jackson. What I've discovered is the "grief" is often in the place of an emotion he's struggling with in another area of life. Transitions, like moving, can be a culprit. They don't know how to process everything they're feeling so their little brains do what they can.

Ride it out and give her coping skills. "I can see you're really sad. What are some things you can do when you feel sad?"

(Last year, he would express his sadness and anxiety as "God doesn't love me anymore!" That one was painful.

Heather Valee said...

Two Thumbs up on Valerie's coment above. We've had alot of waves of questions about heaven and the after life too from Ryan's grandfather passing. She tells me she just doesn't want to go to heaven without me there too and has other random questions, many of which I can't even answer, "what will we do in heaven?" "Will you be able to hold my hand there?" "Will I dies when I am young or old?" She recently said something about becoming an angel after she dies. Developmentally I think they are trying to sort out how it all works and sometimes I think they connect with the fear and sadness from those unknowns and like many of there emotions at this age it overwhelms them at times. There are some good and simple books for kids about death and dying. I wonder if talking and learning more about it would give her more of an outlet to process it? Good luck! this does make me smile, I don't know of any books on the death of a pet you never met but I am sure you can improvise. :)

Ryan and Katie said...

Thanks for all the comments. Surprisingly she never seems to question her Poppy's whereabouts that she actually did know who past away in october. But sometimes I wonder if the dog carries on all feelings for him as well. The Barbie's have been a good distraction today though!

Chellie said...

Looks like you have been given some good advice by others. I have no advice but thought I'd tell you Nate and I got a good laugh out of this.

Shawn and Becky said...

Humm interesting. Do you think she just wants to be sad? Maybe misses Daddy? Maybe you could have a small funeral for him so she can say goodbye :) Remind her that you have Charlie now? Cameron still talks about George our cat that died when he was 2. Don't think he really remembers him, but also just says he misses him then moves on. It's good to acknowledge their feelings. Maybe talk about how he was old and tired and is much happier in heaven. She probably only knows him as a healthy perfect dog from the picture. . . ? Or keep playing with Barbies and distract her!!

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