Fiona, always in our hearts
Last night shortly after getting Margaret tucked into bed, she started sobbing. This isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. (In fact, if I recall correctly she started off sobbing because she wanted a piece of cheese brought up to her and we refused to cater to that). She’s constantly using stall tactics when it comes to bedtime, because she takes after me and has trouble falling asleep (whereas Emily loves her sleep and nods off very soon after her head hits the pillow, lucky girl!) Margaret has even said a number of times when I’ve gone in to see why she’s not asleep yet, ‘I’ve tried and tried, but I just can’t stop my thoughts from running through my head!’ Yup, that’s me pretty much every single night, too...
So at first her sobbing was easy to ignore, but when she just couldn’t seem to stop and was muttering things between sobs that we couldn’t quite understand, James went up to see what her problem was. (I was playing with Andrew at the time, as it wasn’t quite his bedtime yet).
I heard James ask her what the matter was, and Margaret’s reply was completely heart-wrenching. She said (between wails), ‘I miss Fifi!’ And then I heard her explain that she was thinking about Fifi and then it hit her that she’s dead and we’ll never see her again, and it made her heart hurt.
Seriously, this is what my 4 year old is thinking about when she’s supposed to be sleeping! I felt so bad for her, but at the same time found it amazing that her little mind is able to comprehend something so big in the same way an adult would. Grief is hard at any age, although I know it’s not till 7-8 that it’s really supposed to hit a person (like it did for Andrew when Fiona died). Margaret is very intuitive though, and she is so compassionate and her heart is huge. Emily’s is, too, I’m not meaning to not include her here (twin problems - it’s always going to be a challenge making sure it’s known I’m not only praising one and not the other! Emily also has a big heart and loves and misses her kitty cat, but Margaret does tend to think about it more deeply).
After James consoled her for a while I went up with a little cat stuffed animal that I made for Margaret recently and told her if she was missing Fiona she could hug her stuffy. She ended up sleeping with Pearl, our ‘Perfect Pet’ cat that looks like it’s breathing, which seemed to be a bit of a comfort to her, but she was definitely still dealing with some sadness as she went to sleep last night. We talked a bit more about Fiona, and our happy memories of her. We imagined what she would have done that very moment if she was still with us, and we agreed that she would probably be having her crazies, where her ears would go back and out of nowhere she’d race upstairs and into the bedrooms and then back downstairs and moan and meow. Margaret saw the humour in that and through her tears she was also able to smile and laugh.
She still can’t grasp where Fiona is now, which is something Emily also struggles with. Emily will sometimes announce that we used to have a cat but she died, and that now she’s at the vet. I keep having to explain that she WAS at the vet, because they will inevitably ask me what she’s doing at the vet and if she’s happy there. I feel I always have to correct them on that, because I don’t want them thinking our cat got sick so we took her to the vet and left her there to stay so we wouldn’t have to look after her anymore! I don’t know how to properly go about explaining death to 4 year olds, but I’m as open about it as I can be without totally freaking them out. I tell them that she was at the vet, and she died there, but that after she died her body was gone. They wanted to know where it went and in reality she was cremated but how do you tell a young child that her body was burned to ashes? I don’t even like to think about it, in fact I feel very disturbed no matter how her body was disposed of. It makes me feel terrible, and also completely freaks me out in relation to my own eventual death and what will be done to me, and all of us for that matter. I’m not ‘one’ with death, let’s put it that way! It terrifies me and makes me feel sad. Which obviously I don’t want to instill in my children, as it’s a part of life and I know that. I just felt uneasy about the idea of the girls focusing on this image of Fiona’s body being burnt up. I said that when someone dies their body disintegrates over time and goes back into the earth to help other life grow. Luckily we were able to leave it at that and they didn’t ask any more questions!
It’s been just over 6 months now since Fiona died, and while it has gotten easier in some ways, we clearly all still miss her. The finality of death is so hard to deal with, my heart does feel heavy when I’m reminded that we’ll never see our sweet little Fifi again. But it’s true what I told Margaret - she is always in our hearts and in our memories, and we can talk about her to keep those memories alive.