On Losing a Beloved Pet and Sharing Grief with Kids

Animal love. Pet love, specifically rescue pet love is almost unbearable. It’s what you take on when you love another living being no matter what. We all die someday. Is it worth the pain?  Yes. Absolutely positively unequivocally yes. Nothing compares.  I wouldn’t wish the pain away.  But damn, does it hurt.

What a beauty.

Our sweet old girl, Eliza Jane Doolittle, died in the middle of the night on Sunday at our home.

A few words for my girl.

My sweet Eliza girl.  You’ve been with me for almost 20 years and I don’t know what life is like without you.  You’ve moved so many times with me and been through so damn much with me.  Waiting for me.  Loving on me. But more so in recent years with my husband. Man, did you love some Sir. And boy did he love you.  He was your favorite human (it’s okay, I get it) and while we don’t like to pick favorites, you were his incredibly special favorite girl.

This is a back story of our Eliza – A Very Pretty Little Reminder.

We knew it was coming.  I mean you were almost 20 years old and for a cat well, that’s old.  You were still jumping and healthy and a bit playful at times even.  You were steadfast for so many years.  Keeping quiet watch over us and being dependable.  Few folks knew you outside of our little family, because you couldn’t be bothered with guests.  And you know what?  I get that too.

We knew you would show up – jumping on us in the middle of the night getting up on the bed – because that’s when you knew you would have us all to yourself.  You really enjoyed your nightly wet food in the last few months and we wanted to make you as comfortable as possible because we knew the inevitable was coming.  Denial?  Not really.  Just not really knowing how it would all go down and hoping whatever happened it would be quick and painless for you.

When we lost our Sally Boy our babies were just newborns and didn’t know.


At 2.5 years old now, well, they know things.  They are so smart.  We had/have to be careful.  We don’t want to scar them for life, but we also want to be honest with them.

They knew something was up when our Nanny Nikki arrived and we hugged and cried together for a moment.  They knew something.  So we had “the talk”.  Chris and I both unsure of how it would go, what to say, how they would take it. In the end, we sat on the floor of the basement with Nikki and we simply told the truth.  We said that our kitty Eliza had died.  There was quiet for a moment and a couple “Eliza died?” questions and then they wanted to play.   But there were more moments that day and there will continue to be more moments.

We went into the bedroom and her food was up off the floor.  They didn’t believe it, but knew they had to.  Eliza had died.  She’s not with us any longer.  My boy clearly said, “Eliza here yesterday but not here today”.

My boy is sensitive. I don’t know where he gets it. He knows. It’s always the little boys that are most sensitive. In a good entirely awesome kind of way. He saw a bug and told the bug that his cat Eliza died.

They feel grief, these kids. They feel sadness and the missing.  They feel our grief.  They don’t like it when we are sad.  So it’s up to us as the parents to responsibly share the right amount of sadness and yet, not put too much on them.

So we play and then there’s a moment of remembering she’s gone, we acknowledge that it’s ok to be sad and that we miss her too, and then we play some more.

We don’t sweep it under the rug and act like everything is ok.  We don’t ask them to mask their sadness.  We as adults don’t hide our sadness, we just are a bit careful with it.  It’s a balancing act.

It’s heavy.  But we don’t want it to be too heavy.  Their little hearts don’t need to carry that heaviness.  That’s what we are here for.

In the last 6 months you, Eliza, became their best friend.

On a visit.

My boy sang you a song on the ukulele just Sunday, the day you left us, called MOW and it went like this – MOW MOW MOW MOW MOW MOW.

My girl would say several times a day, ME WANT TO SEE EYIIIIIZA.   And they would go have a quick visit or wave to you from the door to the bedroom.

A safe distance is required sometimes.

He said today that his best friend died.  I know you weren’t thrilled when they came along, but you dealt with it by staying in our bedroom.  Believe me there were plenty of times I wanted to hide from the screaming and crying and general nuisance of newborn twins, so I get it.

In our new home we gave you our whole room keeping the little monsters away from you most of the time.  Your litter box and food and safety was in contained in that room.  We knew it was what would make you most comfortable.  The kids call our bedroom Eliza’s room, but that’s neither here nor there.

You entertained them a few minutes each day when they wanted so badly to come in and say hi to you and offer up their gifts (a toy or a drawing) so that you might look kindly on them (GODFATHER KITTY).  It seems as though you softened towards the end and maybe it’s just because you couldn’t move as fast, but you let them pet you and talk to you and sing to you and love on you. Thank you.

They drew you pictures yesterday. After they heard the news. One is of Mama and Dada and Eliza and the other is of Eliza on the bed.

In the end you went out the way you lived your life.  You didn’t want to be a bother.  It was quick.  You let out an awful cry.  We think you had a stroke or something else unpleasant.  You crumpled.  After a few very awful minutes you were still.

We were absolutely helpless.  I’m sorry we couldn’t comfort you more.  We hope you weren’t in too much pain as it happened.  I’ve never had a pet die at home naturally with us. It’s always been a matter of sickness and being put to sleep, but you, you passed while we were in the room and I just hope you didn’t feel too much. We just kept saying we love you and you are such a good kitty and thank you for being so nice to the babies.  It’s the best we could do in such a short amount of time. Hopefully during our 20 years together you already felt all of that.

I hope you are with our Sally Boy over the Rainbow Bridge.  I gotta believe in something and that’s what I choose to believe in.  The Rainbow Bridge.  I know he would be overjoyed to see you.  I would give anything to see the two of you together again.

IMG_6083 (2) IMG_9138

I will always be grateful to you for being kind to my babies. I will always be grateful to you for causing my husband’s heart to grow 5 sizes bigger.

There will never be another quite like you.  Your beauty and your dignity and your annoyance with all of us at times will be shared throughout our lifetime.

I’m so grateful for my husband who is by my side as we go through our second fur baby loss in just two years.  He’s the one who gets it the most. He is closest.  He shares my grief unlike any other.  We carry each other through it.  Now we help carry our kids through it too:

Me – what should I get at costco?

Him – all the candy.

I’m grateful our Nanny Nikki is also my great friend and helped me through yesterday. I’m grateful for chocolate sea salt caramels. I’m grateful for the outpouring of love and compassion from friends and family.  I’m grateful for people allowing us to grieve and not acting as though it isn’t a big deal.

I’m grateful for binge watching friends because once again that’s about all I can handle. Until the realization hit that my nighttime binge watching companion is no longer there to walk all over the iPad while viewing. And the river flows through it once again.

I’ve never lived anywhere without animals. I believe they are just as vital to a family as the rest of its members and we will remedy that soon enough. But for now we mourn. We’ve lost both our furry babies in two years. It hurts. I still miss Sally every day. Now I will miss his big sister too. We will tell their stories. They were here and they made our lives entirely better. They brought us more joy, kindness, love and laughter. They were here and they were so loved. Isn’t that what we all want our stories to be full of?

We will remember you always and speak of your sweetness and beauty. Your will to survive so long hopefully means you were having an ok time with us.  I hope we gave you a good life.  You sure were good to us. We love you Eliza. Oh, and, you got a little soup on your face right there next to your nose.



The questions and the answers:  We are having her cremated so that her urn can be right next to Sally’s.  A shelter dog is in our future. No puppies. We just potty trained twins and have no interest in training another baby.

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