Happiness and sadness…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bye bye sweet Chlo Chlo. Thank you for all that you brought to our family.  You are missed and will never be forgotten.

7 Responses to “Happiness and sadness…”

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  1. Angela Day says:

    I weep with you at readng your sad news. Sophie still talks of our cat Senna who we had to have put to sleep seven years ago when Sophie was only four at the time. Since then she has had a few more times where she has had to come to terms with the circle of life of those we love. Her hamster has a special place in our garden, and I made a special box for him.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you all at what must be a very difficult time….and be prepared for lots of questions about death…but of course the lovely memories stay with us forever…… xxxxxx please give your children a hug from me and I send a big one to you as well. Angela xxx

  2. Donna Kanel says:

    Makes my cry this morning, Concetta. The way you write so tenderly about your family’s loss makes me feel as if it were my own. I have noticed pretty Chloe in your photos, and my heart aches for the loss of her. I have my own little girl cat, Meg, who sits on my mosaics. Thinking of you today.

  3. Rebecca says:

    Giant hugs to all of you! I was very teary reading this. It’s been 2 yrs since we lost our dogs and it still makes me sad not hearing their paws in bounding thru the hallway. My heart is still heavy and we still have not found room for another pet in our house. But we talk of them often and remember the silly things they would do. May you be blessed with the healing of time.

  4. Laura S, Texas, USA says:

    Like the others, I’m reminded of too many losses both human and furry friends & miss them a bit more after reading your blog today. Prayers are with you as you so lovingly deal with your own pain & the pain your little ones are feeling. As one mother to another, sounds like your doing a great job & yes, letting the kids see you cry, laugh & admit to missing Chloe is an excellent way for them to learn how to deal with their own emotions. Don’t wait too long to introduce another pet into the family, this too will help. Good luck to all of you and God’s blessings.

  5. Jane Hughes says:

    I am so sad to read about the loss of your special cat friend. Animals become a part of your family and your life and it is hard to say goodbye.
    My kids still get upset when they talk about Bella, our cocker spaniel that died over 5 years ago … but despite the pain, they wouldn’t have been without her and have so many lovely memories of their batty little friend.
    You are doing everything right and time does heal.
    Jane X

  6. Concetta says:

    Thank you all for your kind and warm words, they meant a lot to read. xx

  7. Lillian says:

    so beautiful Concetta. such a loving lesson you shared with your children, it will last and serve them a lifetime, for life is surely forever filled with moments of great joy and great sadness, abundance and loss. Are we not learning this lesson over and over again? You help them to find what remains steady in the center of it all. Your ritual bowl of flowers and candles such a beautiful touch point. I’m so sorry for your loss of sweet Chloe. Peace, Lillian S.

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