Last week my dog died.
My little Libby, our first fur baby, left the house with her Daddy and never came back and I had no idea how to explain it to Millie. Unable to cope with her death myself, being my first ever pet to pass, I chose to ignore it. Which was something I never thought I would do.
I was all ready for the “she’s in heaven” talk. Both Gerard and I had discussed it would be a sad, but needed, teaching tool for Millie. I would say she’s in heaven, and Gerard would say she’s in Las Vegas… same same but different according to him.
But I was afraid if I started talking about it, I’d break down. I’ve had so much guilt over the whole thing, from making the tough decision to end her pain, to being too emotional to be with her at the end. My strong husband had to do that for me. So I decided if I couldn’t cope with the idea of death at 37, neither could my two year old.
And then MH17 happened. When I read that a prominent family expert Dr Justin Coulson said we should shield children under the age of seven from the death and disaster because it can undermine their belief the world is a safe place, I felt terrible. I’d had the TV on the whole time.
I wondered if any had affected her. Our house, like many, has done nothing but watch and talk of the horror and heartache of it all. In her little head, was she wondering what death was? Did any of it make sense to her?
My test came earlier than I thought. A few days later my mother-in-law got the very sad news that a lifelong friend had passed away from cancer. As she relayed it to us in the kitchen, she broke down crying.
My husband immediately comforted her with a hug, and as she cried into his chest, Millie — concerned about her equal third favourite person in the world (equal with my mum, of course) — asked “What’s wrong with Mema?”
‘Mema’ decided to pick her up, and when she was holding her in her arms, with tears still rolling down her face, she said, “My friend has died, darling, and I’m really sad”.
I held my breath, anticipating the next two-year-old question, and started calculating how I would answer. But instead, she took Mema’s face in her small hands, and with a reassuring and loving voice, said: “Don’t cry, Mema, we’ll find her.” Then she gave her a long hug and a soft kiss on the cheek.
I know it would have been an opportunity to explain. I know I could have taken the time to give the talk I should have given when Libby died. But she was so assured, sweet and innocent that I just couldn’t.
I decided to let my baby be a baby for a little while longer.