Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

On Death

with 6 comments

RIP Jerry

Pudding’s short life has so far been pretty charmed, in that she hasn’t known much loss.  When we’ve gone to museums and looked at animals, I’ve tried to explain that they are not alive, as opposed to the ones in zoos which are alive.  I think she is still a little young to get the concept.

Last year, before I began the blog, Spectrummy Daddy was getting ready to go to Afghanistan.  On an impulse, I decided we needed something to focus on at home while he was gone, and thus Jerry came into our lives.  Pudding is scared of dogs (perhaps wisely, as the yappy dog who lives down the street that started her terror abit me on the leg last week), I’m allergic to cats and various other fluffy creatures.  The lowest maintenance thing I could think of was a fish.  We bought a red betta and brought him home.  A fighting fish would protect us while Daddy was gone!

Every morning Pudding would include Jerry in her goodbyes before school.  She liked to look at him, as did Cubby.  Then, inevitably, I suppose, came the morning when I came downstairs to find Jerry was swimming at the top of the water.  I panicked.  How would she react to this?  Would she be able to understand the concept of death?  She was only 3, a little young for such matters.  Would she grieve?  Would she be angry, or sad, or just not care?  I just didn’t know.  Nowadays  I would have just written a post about it, and waited for your sage comments to guide me through.  Instead, I waited for her reaction to guide me.

Her reaction didn’t come.  She didn’t notice Jerry that morning, and when she went to school, I removed his lifeless corpse and the tank.  When she returned home, I waited for her to notice, but she didn’t.  She never mentioned him, and life for the rest of us continued.  I decided against replacing him.  Clearly I’m not good at keeping fish alive, and she showed no signs of missing him.  Several months passed without a mere mention.

Last week I was emailing her teacher before school, when Pudding approached me and asked where Jerry was.  I was utterly unprepared for the question.  I wondered if she meant somebody else named Jerry, perhaps a character from a book.  I asked her who Jerry was, and she told me, ” a fish.”  I took a breath, and prepared for my first shot at explaining something so utterly beyond me.

Me: Jerry isn’t here any more.  What do you think happened to him?

Pudding: Jerry is gone.

Me: That is right, honey.  He is not alive any more.  He is gone and can’t come back.  Do you miss him?

Pudding: Jerry is gone.  Jerry is gone.

Me: Yes.  What happened to Jerry?  Where do you think he is now?

Pudding: Jerry is gone in the water.  He is swimming in the water.  Jerry is gone in the water.

And then she trotted off to get a book.  The conversation over.  I don’t know if she misses him or not.  I don’t know if she understands.  Maybe in another few months she’ll be back with more questions.  Until then, she is right.  Jerry is gone.  I hope that wherever he is, he is happily swimming in the water.  I also hope that Daddy is around when she next thinks of her little fish friend.  After all, he is the one in charge of religion and frozen desserts.  

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

January 17, 2011 at 8:42 am

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. So I know this isn’t a funny post, but I had to laugh at the last line. We have many things that Dad is in charge of around here..
    I don’t know how this subject will go over in our house when it happens. We have a very old dog that the boys mostly ignore but still know she’s part of the family. I have no idea what will happen that day when we have to tell them she’s not around anymore. I’ll probably e-mail you for advice.


    January 17, 2011 at 8:55 am

    • Yes, e-mail me and then do the complete opposite. I’m out of my depth here, and this was just a fish we hadn’t had for very long.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      January 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

  2. I just found your blog, thanks so much for posting. Pudding reminds me so much of my daughter K, who has HFA (Aspergers) and is almost 5. This post hit home because we recently had a death in our family, K’s only grandfather. It was sudden and somewhat unexpected. We told K that her grandpa had died and that he was in heaven, but that he wouldn’t be living with Grandma anymore. She quickly accepted what we told her and went about her day. About 2 months later, out of the blue, she said (in her declarative fashion), “Grandpa’s in heaven, he’s not coming back… I miss him!” I continue to be surprised by the “delayed” emotional response with my daughter.. I know it’s in there, it can sometimes take time to come out. As for whether Pudding knows that Jerry died and misses him, I have no doubt.


    January 17, 2011 at 9:23 am

    • I’m sorry for your loss. Maybe it is just too painful to process for our kids right away, it requires some reflection. My grandfather died at 6, and I had a very tentative understanding of the whole thing at that age. For many reasons, I hope it is a very long time before we have to deal with real grief around here. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

      Spectrummy Mummy

      January 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm

  3. Death is such an ‘interesting’ subject to approach with a 3 year old.

    It is a VERY interesting thing to approach with an autistic 3 yr old!

    When my Dad passed away 3 years ago, Harley was only 4, he went up to My Mum who was a brand new widow and asked her why her husband was dead.

    He then went up to several random people that he didn’t know at the funeral and told them that matter-of-factly that “cancer made my grandad get dead”.

    Hmmm, he seemed to cope really well though looking back at photos taken around that time, we can see the obvious distress in him.

    Pudding is a fabulous child who probably has just accpeted it for what it is!
    And you handled it brilliantly!


    January 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    • Bless him! It is going to be a pretty abstract concept anyway for our kids, living so far away from everyone, never going to funerals. I’m not sure they’ll get what it really means when the time comes. They’re so young, of course.

      The real lesson is that I shouldn’t try to raise fish when I’ve got enough on my plate!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      January 18, 2011 at 7:46 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: