Friday, February 11, 2011

How is Jena Handling the Loss?

Thankfully, Jena was not with us when we discovered that Tootsie had killed Tess. Jason & I had a late appointment with our physical trainer, and his mom had offered to keep Jena overnight. I really didn't want her to, but reluctantly agreed around 5pm that night. So glad I did.

I picked her up from the in-laws' house after work the next day. As soon as we left their driveway, I turned off her CD of children's worship songs and told her I needed to talk to her about something important, as I adjusted the rearview mirror so I could see her face.

I told her that the night before, while she was spending the night with Mamaw & Papaw, when Mommy & Daddy got home, we found out that while we were gone, something had happened and Tess had died. Tess was dead.

I asked her if she knew what "dead" meant, and she just stared at me. I told her that when someone dies, it means they are gone. Forever.

She paused.

Then began repeating:

"I spend night at Papaw's. Mom & Dad come home. Sumfing happen. Tess diiiieeeeeevvvvvvv"Over, and over, and over again. All the way to McDonald's (because Lord knows the child was getting whatever she wanted that night). I suppose repeating it was her way of processing the information.

At McDonald's, when I saw that our food was dwindling and we would be leaving shortly, I told her I just wanted to make sure she understood that Tess had died, and was gone. That when we got home, Tess would not be there.

She repeated the phrase again.

"I spend night at Papaw's. Mom & Dad come home. Sumfing happen. Tess diiiieeeeeevvvvvvv"

Then she looked up at me, with a twinkle in her eye.

"Mommy! Ask Tess what happen!"
{{ insert heartbreak here }}

Just the way she said it. Like she had just thought of the most brilliant idea. We'll just ask Tess  what happened.
So I explained that we can't ask Tess, because, remember, she's gone. She's not going to be at the house. Ever again.

Jena seemed to ignore me, and went on playing with her toy that she had gotten with her Happy Meal. And then it was time to leave. And she threw a world class tantrum. Throwing things, lying on the floor, the whole bit. And I was by myself. So gathering food, throwing away a tray, collecting things that had been thrown, getting a coat on a flailing toddler... well, these things take time.
So I really didn't appreciate the glares I started getting from other customers. And then from the manager. I mean really?!? Can't you see I'm by myself here, trying to get her out of the restaurant. I suppose I could have left our food on the table, but I'm sure that would have drawn a glare or nasty comment as well. Or left the things she'd thrown on the floor, but again, another glare or comment. Or not taken the time to try to get her coat on. But it was 18 degrees out, and she's two, so... yeah, I'm gonna take the time. Geez! Cut a mother a break.

Anywhoo, I digress. I told her again a few minutes into the drive home. I just really wanted her to understand that Tess was not going to be at the house. As much as she could understand.

And so, we pulled into the driveway and I turned off the engine and turned to look at her.

"I just want to make sure you understand that Tess died. She's not here anymore. She's gone. We only have one cat now. Just Tucker. Okay?"

"Mommy, Tess hidin'"

"No, Jena, Tess isn't hiding. She's gone. She's just not here anymore, not here anywhere, okay? Just Tucker now. No more Tess."

"Tess sum-wer (somewhere)"

I paused. There was one way to handle pet death that I hadn't wanted to go, but Jason had (he was working, so I won by virtue of being the one who had to do it). But maybe I should say it now. Now that she had said "somewhere".

"Jena, Tess is in Heaven. When pets die, that's where they go, they go to Heaven. Do you know where Heaven is? Heaven is where God lives. So since Tess died, she's living with God now. And He's gonna keep her, okay? She's gonna live with Him, and He's not bringing her back. She lives with God now."

 No response.
We got out of the car, and went into the house. She started walking around, mumbling something. I couldn't really make it out, although I did hear "God" repeatedly.

And then... she became obsessed with Tucker. She wanted him to play kitchen with her. She tried to read books to him. She wanted him to sleep in her bed. And she talked about taking him to the sitter's house the next day.

Sweet girl.

A couple of hours later, while eating her snack, she looked at me and very matter-of-factly said:

"Mommy! Go pick Tess up now! She hidin'."
"Hunny, she's not hiding. I can't pick her up, because she's gone, remember? She's not here anymore. Ever."
And that was it for that night. When I tucked her in, and we were saying our prayers, I said a special prayer thanking God for the time we had with Tess, and for what a blessing she had been in our lives the short time she was with us.

The next morning, no mention of Tess at all. Until we were leaving. We have a habit of saying goodbye to the cats when walking out the door.

"Goodbye Tucker! Have a nice day! We'll see ya later!"
"Bye-bye Tucker! Bye-bye Tess!" {pause} "Nope. No Tess."
She continued walking out the door. I, however, started bawling. I have taken very strong efforts to not cry about this in front of Jena. I don't want her to feed off of my emotion, I want her to have her own reactions to this event in her life. But this time, I lost it. We got in the car, and drove to the sitter's.

And that was that. That evening, we cut our nails before bathtime. First Jena, then mommy, then Tucker's claws.

"Do Tess nails!" she exlaimed excitedly.

"I can't, hunny, remember? Tess's gone."

She mentioned her again this morning. She was singing, and kept saying Tess's name over and over. I couldn't really make out the rest of the words.

And that's the last time she's mentioned her. I keep waiting for her to start looking for Tess. Or to call for her. Or to ask me questions. I keep waiting for it, but so far it hasn't happened.

She seems to be handling it very well. Much better than I am, anyway. I'm still a mess.

1 comment:

Steph{anie} said...

Poor FireGirl (and poor FireWife). Hopefully she's still processing this well...and you are working through the grieving process as well.

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