empty_benchMy younger son Thomas has just become 12, but his childhood innocence ended a few days earlier because he experienced the biggest sorrow of his life – our tom-cat “Schnurr” had been killed by a car. Schnurr had been Thomas’s very best friend for seven years. My boys are home-schooled (or, to be precise, unschooled) and our cat had been around him every day, all day, sitting near Thomas or even on his lap when he read, watched TV – and he was involved in a lot of games Thomas played. More than once, when I had watched Thomas playing and cuddling with his cat, filming Schnurr’s behavior, I had thought by myself: “May this cat have a long life!”

When he disappeared, we did not worry for the first 2 days, because it was springtime, and Schnurr was usually very adventuresome during this season. I was on a business trip, and when I called home, Thomas said in a small and frightened voice: “Schnurr hasn’t come back yet!” My heart sunk, but the first thing I thought was: I want to be at home when Thomas finds out that Schnurr might be dead, so I said in my most confident voice: “Oh honey, I truly don’t feel that this means anything bad! I will be back tomorrow night, and when he is not back Saturday night, I will go and search for him with you on Sunday!”

Our common search on Sunday gave us opportunity to talk. I tried to slowly narrow down our conversation to the long time our cat was away now, how much we all missed him, how Thomas longed to stroke his fur, how sad it would be if Schnurr really would not return, and tried to lead Thomas from his agitation softly into the direction of sadness and sorrow. A neighbor told us she had seen his corpse, and after we had talked to the people who had found him, Thomas cried in my arms non-stop for hours, continuously giving words to his deep grieve grief like in a Greek tragedy. When he started doubting again that this “red tomcat killed by a car” had been our Schnurr, I insisted on visiting the woman who had found him, showing her a photo – she recognized Schnurr without any doubt, so Thomas could not escape the futility of hope and continued crying in my arms.

I invited him to sleep in my bed that night – and three weeks later he is still my guest. We have a lot of quiet conversations at bedtime – not exclusively about Schnurr anymore – and he has started to write down his dreams in the morning, longing for the day when he will meet Schnurr in a dream. Thomas’ elder brother has produced a wonderful video with hundreds of photographs and many video clips with our cat. We have watched it together, laughed and cried, and created some loving farewell rituals for Schnurr. Thomas still misses his cat a lot, but this loss has become part of his life. He can talk about his memories of Schnurr now and slowly starts looking forward to fall, when we will look for a new cat. I am very grateful that my knowing about the Neufeld approach helped me to lead Thomas softly but clearly through the maze of his angst, agitation, shock, desperation, wrath (“I hate all cars! Who could invent something so cruel!”), sorrow, grieving, to the adaptation to something he could not change.

© 2019 The Neufeld Institute
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