This weekend, our 14 year-old cat, Mow, had a stroke and we had to put her down. She'd become decrepit little by little over the years, so it wasn't a real shock. Still, it was very sad, mostly just to see her in such a difficult state. My 9 year-old daughter took it really hard. She'd been through it before with other pets, but this one was particularly tough for her. I think it was because she got to say goodbye to Mow, whereas the other pets died without her seeing them in tough shape beforehand.
Grief is hard. It's especially hard to watch your kids mourn.
I curled up on the bed with my daughter as she cried it out. I stroked her forehead and told her stories about the cat I had as a little girl, an orange cat I named Butterscotch and called Bubs. She slowly came around and even laughed at my animated retelling of how Grandma used to get all upset when Bubs would weave in and out of her fragile mementos on the mantle without ever touching them.
I can't say for sure, but I think the time I spent with her, working through those emotions, will be locked in her long-term memory. When she's grown with kids of her own, she may well remember this weekend and how her mom loved her. I certainly won't forget it.