Teaching children about emotions is such a big part of being a parent. So easy to get it wrong – to send messages that cause a denial or surpression of feelings (‘don’t cry, cheer up, don’t be silly’…) or to be shy in setting boundaries of what behaviour is OK/ not OK in response to our feelings. We cannot command or control our feelings. As mindfulness is teaching us, we can learn good ways to be with feelings, our own and those of others, so that our response shows kindness to ourselves and others. I am realising that modelling and mirroring this is one of the most crucial parts of being a parent.
Another big learning curve…a big one for us this weekend… is allowing mixed feelings to co-exist in you at the same time. You can have happiness and sadness, excitement and fear, all bundled up in the same experiences.
We celebrated a certain little boy’s birthday this weekend – 6 years since this little ray of sunshine came into our lives (on a very sunny morning, born in the peace of our home). We danced, partied, saw a show with lots of little friends, had a family tea and went out for dinner as a family. Toby continues to meet life with 110% enthusiasm and a huge dose of cheekiness (hard to keep a straight face when one is supposed to be cross with him!). I am full of gratitude for his presence in our lives.
In the middle of it all, we tried to take in the news that our sweet cat, Chloe (whom blog followers will be well acquainted with) was hit and killed by a car. Chloe was no ordinary cat and people who met her would comment that she acted as though she was human! A Burmese, the breed is nick-named “cat-dog” as they bond with their owners in a very dog-like way and want to be with them all the time. She jumped on our bed every morning. She greeted us on our return from school, either waiting by the front door or running at full speed down the street to meet us. She sat right on our chest as we read bedtime stories each night and she slept snuggled up with the children.
She was well known by the whole neighbourhood – so many people have stopped to say how sad they are. She was a true companion, especially to our daughter. A member of our family is now missing and we are really feeling her absence (especially for me, as working at home most days, she was my studio buddy, always sitting on my work bench – and on my mosaics!).
Telling the children was heart-renching – and we now watch them process through grief – real grief – and I understand that the death of a special pet is such a landmark moment in a child’s life. It is the loss of connection and the impact is profound – for it is connection (to people, animals and place) that makes us who we are. It takes me back to my own grief and I am full of tears at the moment – for the loss of this little animal who made herself such a strong presence in our home, and for other past losses.
This is life, the goodness and the sadness living alongside each other. And so we teach our children that their feelings are ok, not to be frightened of them but to let them ‘be’, to ‘lean into them‘ as Pema Chodron says in her book. “Taking the Leap“. But neither to be totally collapsed into them because the rest of life – goodness, creativity, fun and love – all continues in the midst of hard feelings.
I was proud of my kids when we buried Chloe in the back garden on Sunday. They both wrote beautiful, precious words and read them out to her. We wrapped her box in one of Isabella’s jumpers and put Chloe’s favourite toy in with her. Isabella put the soil on her little box, not stopping until she had covered her right up. Then we created a beautiful bowl of floating flowers and candles – which Isabella keeps coming back to when she needs to.
We have also done a slide show picture frame of all the photos we took (there are many!) and keep reading the story book about Chloe which Toby and I wrote for Isabella’s 6th birthday. All little steps in learning how to deal with grief and loss for the first time. “This is the saddest thing that has happened to me mummy. She was my best friend. She was in our family…”
In the sadness, we are grateful for the wonderful experience of having this amazing little animal in our lives (I think we had 10 years worth of cuddles in 2!). We are slowly letting her go.
Bye bye sweet Chlo Chlo. Thank you for all that you brought to our family. You are missed and will never be forgotten.