Dealing with Death

As  I mourn the death of my favorite singer, I am reminded of  the full circle of life.  The importance of dealing with death and our children earnestly.

Last month, O and I lost a special lady in our life.  She was a part of my life story for nearly 20 years.  Her warmth and honesty will be missed.  Yesterday, O attended her funeral with me.  She’s attended funerals before, but this time was probably the first time she had questions about death. 

O is no stranger to death or dying.  When we begun keeping an aquarium, we lost a few rounds of fish to poor aquarium keeping skills or just old age.  And each time we found a floating fish, I  told O that her fish had died and unfortunately wouldn’t swim again.  And due to their demise, it was time to flush their bodies they were no longer used.  We repeated this for a while until our aquarium became a living viable ecosystem.  Thankfully, there are far fewer fish flushings in our house.

Yesterday, O scanned the crowd and said, “Where X’s mom?”

I said, “Remember love, I told you she died.  Remember she was very sick the last time we saw her.”

“Yes”, she said. “But will we see her again.”

I paused not sure what to say.

“No” I said. “It’s like when our fish died.  They stop swimming and we flush them.”

“Are we gonna flush X’s mom?” O asked innocently.

“No, we don’t have to flush her.  We are here to say good by to Mrs. X” I answered.

“Oh wait,” O said “We will see her again in heaven.”

She was enlightened.  Simply, and as honestly as I think someone of four years could understand.

We often try to shield our children from death, but it handicaps their growth.  Understanding death as a part of the life cycle is an important lesson.

Death shapes our lives. It changes us all forever.  It shrinks our family.  It takes our friends.  It reminds us of our mortality. It causes us to grieve.  And learning that grief is okay is a hard part of life. 

With children, we must remember that even in the midst of our own grief that we must teach our children about death.  Children are intuitive.  They have a base understanding of death.  Death may not touch them while they’re young, but eventually death catches us all.

It is important to allow our children to grieve as children do.  They should be allowed to express their sadness.  They should be allowed to ask their parents questions. And no, they’re never too young to talk about death.  And you might even be surprised at how their empathy heals your heart. 

My suggestion is that when they ask, you answer. When they want to talk about death, you allow them.  Teach them not to fear death, but to live despite the certainty  of death.

Resources for talking about and dealing with death with your children:

http://www.hospicenet.org/html/talking.html

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/death.html

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