Why I Need You All With Me the Next Time I’m Discussing Death

I am beyond busy these days (buh-bye, maternity leave) but wanted to thank the blog world for so much compassion over one crappy cat. If you had ever met Desdemona, you’d be taking it all back, so I’m kind of glad you never met her. Not just for the kind words, but because the ensuing advice about death and spirituality was extremely helpful yesterday.

Sort of.

Well, you be the judge.

“Going home,” Thalia said. “See Emily. And Desi!”

“No sweetie, no Desi.”

“Desi’s at the doctor.”

“So okay Thalia, Desi died. She was too sick to get better. She was really old and really sick and her body just couldn’t work any more sort of like water in a cup and wait, that’s not right but um…but she can still live in our hearts so anyway it’s not just that she was old because old is relative. I mean, tortoises can live 100 years and a tortoise – do you know what a tortoise is? Like a turtle.”


“And a flower can live one day, like that flower you picked at Aunt Maggie’s house and it died and then then Desi, she lived to almost 17. Remember how you can count to 16 now? Well 17 is one higher than that so it’s really high! But not as high as Momsie who’s now almost 90! That’s really really high. But now anyway, Desi is peaceful which is good because she was so sick and hurting and even though we won’t see her again she let us pet her for so many years and we loved her and you can still talk to her if you want.”

“Talk to Desi.”

“Yes, well, at least in your head…do you know how to do that? And all right, so anyway…she’s not sick anymore, she’s dead. And that’s what dead means.”


“More crackers Mommy?”

Okay, so if any of you need advice on talking to your kids about vaginas, feel free to ask. At least I’ve got that one down.


23 thoughts on “Why I Need You All With Me the Next Time I’m Discussing Death”

  1. I so feel you on the Desi thing, because I had an evil, evil cat named Buddha who I loved beyond what was reasonable considering his temperament. He regularly viciously attacked me in my sleep (and awake), to the point of me sleeping with a water bottle in my hand, and carrying it everywhere when I was awake. I tried EVERYTHING (drugs, his own pet, increased play) and finally ended up having to put him down because he tried to attack my then six-month year old. I’m glad you and Desi were able to stick it out 16 years, even if she was evil for most of them. I have no doubt that we did the right thing, but I still miss Buddha even though I landed in the ER several times. I bet you miss Desi like crazy. On the flip side, don’t feel guilty when you start to realize how much easier some things are now, that she’s gone. I felt that way, and it’s no fun.

  2. That sounds an awful lot like me explaining gay marriage to my 6 year old. Started out strong, lost the plot completely about halfway through when I found myself discoursing on the evils of religious coercion. Oops… I blogged about it if you’d like to take comfort in the fact that the rest of us flub this sort of stuff just as badly – http://aroundtheisland.blogspot.com/2007/04/i-thought-i-had-few-more-years.html.I think you did great with Thalia all things considered.

  3. Obviously that “oops” should have been in the previous paragraph. And I make a living as an editor, too. Sheesh!

  4. “wanted to thank the blog world for so much compassion over one crappy cat.” Bwahahahaha! Sorry, that’s super funny… and EXACTLY how I feel about my furball. Considering she was more interested in crackers and maybe just hearing her own voice, you gave it a good run with Thalia.

  5. It’s so hard explaining death to kids. My cat died a couple months ago and I’ve still got unanswered questiosn popping up on where’s Gigi and when can she be undead. *sigh*Big hugs to you.

  6. This post reminds me of how my husband and I told his then 8- and 9-year-old kids that we were getting married.Mind you, they had no issue with it. We didn’t expect any great outcry.But oh, the awkward babbling, the verbal stumbling and oomphing and tangenting. Hubs sounded like a dolt. I sounded like a Vally Girl in her prime. Sounds like — aside, maybe, from the talking-to-her-in-your-head thing (ROFL!), you did much better than we would have.

  7. As you know, my kids are much older. That doesn’t make me an expert of course…I’m winging it like everybody else. But what I have learned is that sometimes, they don’t need to hear it as much as we need to say it. And that’s okay. RIP Desi.

  8. Definitely a valiant effort. More crackers..LOL…see I think you could have blamed it on the doctor and she would have easily bought it.

  9. When she starts having funny ideas about talking to dead people, you can always try the talk again. 😉I think she’ll be just fine in the meantime.

  10. Heh. This reminds me of trying to explain to Ben at around four a bit about the birds and bees because of some question he’d asked.I finished talking, and he looked totally terrified.He said, “Can I be excused now?”

  11. I think the idea of “talking to her in your head” was brilliant. A very empowering way to grieve. There just isn’t an easy way to handle talking about death with a newish person. I remember after my miscarriage, my 3 year old son asked where the baby was. The only thing I could think of that wasn’t either gross or scary was “the baby is with God.” Which is kind of weird since I had no religious sensibility then. At all. But although I have always said I wouldn’t lie to my kids – that was one time when keeping them feeling safe was prominent. Now, since I’m more religious, it would be easier. I really commend your dealings with Ms. Thalia my love. Honest, loving and (must be that copywriter training) a perfect coping tool/metaphor. I also really loved that you told her she could still talk about him any time she wanted to. Yay Mommy!

  12. My son was diagnosed with cancer as a toddler, and our life quickly became a real-life st. judes infomercial. We were surrounded by dying children, and many of his friends passed, so we were forced to explain the whole death and heaven thing earlier than we’d hoped.In the end, he thinks heaven is a great place, with an oreo cookie house. He doesnt think death is bad, it’s rather natural in his mind. The sweetest part, is that any time he gets a helium balloon, he whispers a message into it and sends it up to a friend. He watches it soar and float, and when the tiny speck disappears, he knows the friend has got it.

  13. Ugh…so sorry. When I explained death to Maya, who wanted to know how she would survive if I were to die (she was an old toddler, what can I say), I told her that if I were to die, I would come and visit her in her dreams, and we could re-live all of her favorite times together, and we could talk about anything she wanted to talk about, and that my body wouldn’t be there anymore, but I’d still be with her in her dreams. That seemed to help.Now I just hope I don’t come to her dreams as some really scary person, because that would just fuck the whole thing up.

  14. And this is why I let my husband take care of the death talk. I’m all over the sex talk (not that I’ve done it), but could totally seem myself rambling incoherently about dying. Of course with all my liberal ways, I still can’t help barking “no more penis-butt hugs and stop asking why!”

  15. Find the book “The Tenth Good Thing About Barney.” The boy in the book loses his cat, and his parents ask him to think of 10 good things about Barney. The 10th good thing is that when Barney is buried, he contributes to the cycle of life. It’s a little 70s granola, but it works.

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