Coping with the Loss of a Pet You Have Never Met – Kids are Weird

February 9, 2015, In: Teaching Tales

Kids are weird. They are funny and creative and delightful too, but there is no getting around the fact that they are weird.

As a certified teacher who is reluctant to teach full time, long term subbing has been a perfect “day job” recently. It gives me the opportunity to be in a classroom for an extended period (a week or more) while still maintaining the flexibility to pursue other passions and interests. Plus, I absolutely love getting the chance to be in one classroom long enough to start getting to know the very distinct personalities of these little humans. It sounds cheesy, I know, but I feel really honored to be in their lives, even just for a little while.

One thing I have learned over the last few weeks is that tears are a big part of second grade. Second graders have all of emotions coursing through their tiny little bodies and a lot of them just don’t know how to deal with them except to dissolve into a pile of tears.

One of my students loves cats. Like really, really loves cats. Sometimes she ties her scarf to her jeans like a tail to help her look more like a cat. Sometimes she wears ears. All-the-times she has a lot of emotions. She has one of the sweetest and most gentle souls I have ever encountered, but that gentleness comes with a lot of emotions. One day she was having a particularly hard time and after a while I pulled her aside to chat. I asked her what was going on and she told me, through gasps, that her cat had just died of cancer.

Well that spoke straight to my heart, because given my very serious love of one particular little yorkie, I can’t even imagine how I would cope with the loss of a pet in second grade. I put my arms around her (which I have more latitude to do here at a mostly-military school) and told her how sorry I was for her loss. And then she said:

“I never even had the chance to meet her.”

Umm… what? She went on to explain that she had read about this cat who lived back in the States (with another family) and that she had hoped someday maybe her family could adopt the cat. And now it was dead. Huh. I really didn’t know how to respond to that. But hey, the kid’s grief was real, no matter that it wasn’t actually her cat, and she’d never actually met said cat. So I patted her on the back and encouraged her to take a deep breath and get a drink of water before starting on math.

A week later she was devastated by a litter of kittens she’d read about who had died in a flood. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to tragedies.

I do hope, for her sake, that she will toughen up a little bit before she has to read Old Yeller.

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  1. Reply

    Oooooooh, I feel for your 2nd grader. Yes, it’s tough out there. I have the same problem… and so there are books (Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, that book about the cat Dewey) that I avoid.

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