“Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” - Tom Stoppard
We recently lost a beloved pet--Tess, our Yorkshire Terrier. Tess was a very mild-mannered dog who belonged to my mom. My son, who is just now two, learned to say her name with a handful of his first words, even though he only saw her when at Grandma’s house.
This was the second death in our family in just over a year, but there has been a massive change in my son moving from the ages of one to two. Knowing this, I was struggling with how to explain the dog’s death to a toddler as we drove our way over to console his grandma.
I have read some great books and attended some great courses on how to speak to children, but it’s crazy when the moment strikes, how lost for words we can get. Rather than draw attention in the moment to the now-missing dog, I decided to wait for him to notice. I thought perhaps I might get by without the conversation even coming up.
As we arrived at Grandma’s doorstep with a meal for all, we settled outside on the patio. Grandma was doing well and had no tears, and so far the conversation had remained neutral. As we were all mid-chew, my son suddenly blurted out, “Tess, Tess open door.” As the floodgates opened, we explained that yes, Tess had left us all here on Earth and opened the door to her next life. It is amazing how I had been struggling to come up with the right words, yet my toddler explained it in pure childlike innocence with more eloquence than I could have mustered. We often feel our role as a parent is to teach, but many days, I am convinced that it’s the complete opposite, and my son has come to teach me. From this day forward, I am holding tight to the analogy of opening doors--because if energy can’t be destroyed, then why can’t it be behind another door?