My parents’ dog, and Amanda’s beloved playmate, Charlie (who goes by “Chuckie” with her,) died this weekend. I am stunned thinking that he was fourteen years old – I can’t believe it, but I start placing events in my life with when he was around and it makes sense. He was my parents’ dog, but he was also my dog for the years I lived there, too. I’ll really miss him. He was a really sweet dog.
As upsetting as his loss is, it’s more upsetting dealing with figuring out how to get a toddler to grasp what death means. I found myself most preoccupied with figuring out how to get this across to her. She simply can’t understand the concept, and we’re reduced to saying that he’s “gone away and he won’t be coming back.” The first day, she just didn’t get it, and when he was mentioned, it was with the condition of him coming back at some point. Sunday I opted to tell her that he had been very sick and couldn’t be with us anymore, and now he was somewhere where he could be much happier and wouldn’t be sick anymore. But he wouldn’t be coming back to us.
Yesterday, I asked her if she understood about Chuckie, and she said he was sick. And I asked, “And he won’t be coming back, right?” She said, “Okay,” followed by “let’s play!” She seemed fine. I shrugged it off, figuring kids deal with things in different ways, if she was dealing with it at all. Who knows what all this means at 32 months?
This morning, as I buckled her up to take her over to my parents for the day, I asked her one last time about Chuckie, to make sure. “You know he won’t be there, right? Chuckie’s in a better place, he’s happy and playing with friends.” Her eyes welled up, but no tears fell, and she said, “He can’t come back.” I kissed her forehead. She understands.