Dear Annie: I love reading your column in the Indianapolis Star. Today I read the column “How to tell my children that our dog is dead?” I think you were right when you wrote to avoid saying that pets have fallen asleep. After this suggestion, however, I think your answer fits into a narrow theological belief.
My grandmother used to say that “heaven and hell are here on earth”. That is, she believed, in a sense, that we make our own heaven or hell in this lifetime, and that there is no hereafter. Me too, I believe so. Not all of your readers believe in heaven, hell, or any other life.
Others believe in heaven and hell, but not for animals. In any case, a theology where animals and humans are happily reunited after death is not inclusive for all readers. In our family, if I said that, I would be lying. When our animals die, we are sad. We bury them in the yard. Being sad helps us in life because it is important for us to experience and recognize all emotions.
I would suggest that “Explain to Our Children” tell their children that we are very sad and that is okay; that animals, and even humans, all die, and we are sad for that. And beyond that, we can all teach our children our religious or secular beliefs. – A loyal reader
Dear loyal reader, Thank you very much for your letter and your point of view. I like the idea of encouraging children to feel their feelings, to recognize what they are feeling, so that they can deal with any kind of loss. If more adults learned to do this as children, we would have a quieter society.
Dear Annie: This is in response to “Explaining to Our Children”, which wondered how to tell their young children of the death of their dog. My husband and I had a beautiful golden retriever before we had children. Then we had two daughters. When the kids were in elementary school, they kept asking for a cat. We were not “cat people”.
We told the girls a lie – that we couldn’t have a cat because we had a dog. It seemed to be enough. When the dog was 14 years old, he became very sick and fragile, and we had to make the decision to put him down. We were devastated and worried about the reaction of the girls. Their response: “We have no more dogs; can we have a cat now? Children are very resistant. More than adults. – Cats and dogs
Dear Cats and Dogs: Losing a pet is difficult for all of us at any age. You are right that adults suffer too, and perhaps even more so than children. So, do you have a cat?
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