March 30, 2016

In Loving Memory, Dealing With the Loss of a Pet

I love being able to make a kid smile.
Nothing warms my heart more than a smile breaking across cheeks that just a few seconds ago had tears rolling down them. 

On my drive home, I feel so fulfilled if I can look back at my day and know that I touched someone, that I was fortunate enough to be the one to help turn their day around or help them cope with a hard situation.
It's those moments that make me love my job. 

The most recent "love my job" moment happened when a little girl was referred to me because she came into class in a state of shambles. She confided in her teacher that her dog had passed away that morning. It had been viscously attacked right in front of her, it was a very traumatic experience and she was visibly shaken.

The teacher and I agreed, in her state, learning wasn’t going to happen.
Her mind was too busy trying to process the terrible event her little eyes had just witnessed without the right tools to process the information on her own. 

As soon as the teacher explained what was happening, I went and got her. Even though we had never met, getting her to come with me was effortless. I could tell she was hurting and needed to talk but at the same time wanted to save face with her classmates. She was happy to momentarily fall apart anywhere but in front of her peers.

I brought her into my office and told her she could sit anywhere she wanted. She crawled up into my big comfy chair, buried her face and let the tears pour out. I let her cry for a bit and get out all that she wanted to get out. I sat close by but I gave her the space she needed.

After a few minutes, she looked up at me and was ready to talk. We spoke for a little bit and when it felt appropriate, we moved to my desk and I gave her this memory book.

I told her she could keep it, but for now I just wanted her to color the front of it. Coloring is so therapeutic, there’s a reason they made adult coloring books! I wanted her to calm her mind and have a few minutes of silence to process and sit with her thoughts. She took her time and colored precisely and methodically. She outlined the shapes and blended colors, I was impressed.


Once she finished the cover, she flipped through the workbook.

“Can I color a picture on this page?”

“Of course! This is your memory book, when you are ready you can color any page you want.”

I saw a sheepish little half smile come across her face as she grabbed the orange colored pencil and started coloring the cat.

She colored and answered the first two pages. I was enjoying seeing her come out of her shell. She started talking about her dog a little bit. This time, there were no tears.

I really enjoyed watching her make Chui’s memory come to life.

When she got to the end of the book, she drew a big heart because “Chui would want me to feel his love and love like he did.” With that, she wrote a goodbye letter to Chui and let a single tear fall.

Her family affectionately called this Pomeranian fluff butt, I thought that was kind of cute. From the way she described him, I imagined a pint size ball of fur running my way.
I asked if I could look over her memory book. I picked a page that I knew had made her really happy. We talked about that memory again, I wanted her to go back to her class on a happy note.

Before she went back to learning, she said, “Can I have a book for my mom? I think it would really help out a lot.”

That was the best compliment I think she could have ever given me. 

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To protect my student's confidentiality, I recolored a memory book to closely resemble my student's book. 
The story unfolded as told but the images are recreated. 

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