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January 26, 2010

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Sue_bailey

Badger's Parting Gift by Susan Varley was highly recommended by a primary school Head though I have not read it myself.

Manda

Hey if anyone comes across any books of this reference, let me know.
We get sent books every day to feature in the magazine (doing a massive book mention in Spring 2010 edition) but non offer help and advice around this topic.
Neither of my two have ever asked me this question!
The first google search result with info on talking to children about death is from a website for families with people facing life threatening illnesses.
http://www.hospicenet.org/html/talking.html

Rosie Scribble

Many thanks Sue, I'll see if I can order it. If it is helpful I'll mention it on my blog so others in a similar position can track it down too.

Liz@VioletPosy

Funnily enough my little one is asking the same question at the moment. We've had two close relatives die over the last month and of course it's dawned on her that Mummy and Daddy and she will die one day. To be honest I've done what you have and I'm running out of ideas, so I'll be interested in what resources people pass on.

At the moment we're having lots of cuddles and conversations about us loving her 'always' and she seems to be semi ok, but it's really hard.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Manda. I'm sure it is a question most children will ask at some point or at least think about. I'm going to check out Sue's recommendation of Badger's Parting Gift by Susan Varley. I'll let you know it it's helpful.

Rosie Scribble

It is a tough one isn't it and so hard to see them struggling with such big questions. I've found myself at a loss for words which has left me feeling highly inadequate. I'm doing the same as you - offering lots of cuddles and reassurances and telling her I love her. It seems to be helping but I want to have a better answer next time she asks the same question.

If I find enough helpful resources, I expect I'll write a post about it which make help others too.

Heather

I have no help or experience but would be very interested to here what answers you get, no doubt this is something we will come to in time and would be good to be prepared. I hope you both get passed this fairly painlessly.

Sally, Who's the Mummy?

There are whole sections on Amazon of books about death and dying for children - I think linda's done some recommendations, too.

With Flea, it's been an issue recently when she asked, "Where's Uncle Ross?" looking at a picture of my brother, who died before she was born.

I know Flea's younger than IJ but my approach was to explain that he died. I said that people die when their bodies don't work any more, usually when they're very old, and that we're sad because we miss them but that it isn't sad for the person who dies - they can't be hurt or feel sad any more.

We're not religious so I've just said that everything that's living turns into something else when it dies - whether that's turning into something that feeds the plants or animals, or it goes into the air or sea, because everything is part of the same world, and it's natural for things to change.

Don't know if that worked or not, I'd have to wait and see if she needs therapy when she's older. But at the moment, I think Flea's too young to really understand - I remember reading recently that 6 is the age when children can suddenly really understand that death is permanent, so I think traumas at that age are very common.

Dulwich Divorcee

This is such a tricky one. Very difficult to face up to - at any age! My eldest used to wait until I was doing really difficult driving manoeuvres then ask about sex and death. A wonder I never crashed. I used to be quite matter of fact and say we all ended up as stars in the sky (like you I am not religious but this seemed to get round the whole anihilation problem) then we would look at the stars at night and that seemed to deflect her anxieties. I also got pets to try and deal with the issue at one remove - fish are good as they die regularly (or did in my tender care!) and that rather seemed to take the sting out of the whole death thing a bit ...

Manda

Oooh yes please do. If you find some help somewhere and you write a little something and send it us, we'll publish it. Email editorial@flyingstartmagazine.co.uk + subject it Rosie Scribbles death stuff (that way I'll notice it!)
xx

Rosie Scribble

Sally, thanks so much for such a hugely helpful comment. I have just dashed over to Amazon and purchased three books that sound ideal.

So sorry to hear about your brother Ross. I saw him in your favourite photo meme and was increibly moved to hear your own tragic story.

I really like the way you have tried to explain death to Flea. It makes a lot of sense. I have to admit when IJ asked me, the question caught me completely off guard and I ended up nearly as tearful as her which didn't help matters at all.

I think you are right about 6 being a difficult age. I hadn't really realised as I don't remember much about being 6 but so far IJ has been bombarding me almost non-stop with difficult questions.

Thanks again for your comment. It has been hugely helpful.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks for your comment. I've received some helpful suggestions so far and plan to write a post once I have found some helpful information. I'm sure we will get through this stage fairly painlessly. I expect it is all quite normal.

MrsW

My older two were 6 and 5 on in 2001 and 9/11 was certainly discussed at school the same way I guess Haiti is today. But I think the question of mortality raised its head before that, certainly with my daughter (actually now I think of it I can't ever remember my older son raising it - he's always had his mortality drummed into him because of his nut allergy!).

I've always been very matter of fact - "Will I die?" got the response "Of course you will, we all will, can you imagine how crowded the world would be if we didn't?!"

As an atheist I've never comfied this up with stories of heaven or meeting up again. Altho even as an atheist I'm not sure where the perpetuating myth of an afterlife comes from - hope? Perhaps.

As they've grown I've introduced the idea that if I die first then that is as it should be, that the only people who suffer after a death are those left behind (the dead person aint all that bothered!) and that odds are we'll all live to a ripe old age if we look after ourselves and are careful crossing roads :) They've also glimpsed from the periphery a bit of what it's like to exist as an aged, incapable person, tired and in pain and are pragmatic enough now to realise that there's an order to things, that dying is part of life.

Sorry I went on a bit...

Ian Newbold

As you can imagine death can dominate discussion in our household, and my approach is to be as delicate as possible, but stick with the truth. People do die - they are as I type this comment - the reality isn't very pretty, but it is what it is. I say I am not planning on dying any time soon, and by being healthy, and sensible, I am giving myself the best chance of a prolonged life. I have a few books in my possession, but haven't read them, we don't really need an example. But some of our fish dying have been positive, albeit painful, experiences. And remember, life means so much, because of death.

Crystal Jigsaw

I sometimes think schools are like the media when big events hit the news; I remember Amy's first school was and she used to come home asking all sorts of questions which I found impossible to answer. She recently saw me emptying some very dirty water down the grid after I'd been mopping the floor, and she asked, "is that what some children drink in poor countries?" I answered, "no, they have their own water to drink," before changing the subject.

But on the issue of death, we have spoken about it many times and I always remind Amy that life is more important; that we should embrace our lives and live our days to the full for we are dead for an awfully long time.

CJ xx

Tara@Sticky Fingers

Death is so matter of fact to my two for some reason.
They're all "mummy you're going to die before us, but I'll look after my sister for you. I'll probably die before her cause I'm older but she won't have long on her own cause she'll die not long after at all".
It's usually me with my fingers in my ears going 'la la la' because I can't bear to hear it.
I don't know why they're like this. I suppose we talk matter of factly about it to them. Both my maternal grandparents died about 8 years ago (and I was v close to them) but I tell the children stories about them and funny things they did and memories I have and the kids love it. We even wave at the gravesite when we drive past and they're all 'hey poppa!"
I think they are just very comfortable with it. You live then you die. It's all a part of life.

Josie @Sleep is for the Weak

Do you know what, I'm 28 and I STILL don't think I've got my head round the whole dying thing, despite having actually been there as somebody did, so it's no wonder that at 6 it feels like a hugely scary and confusing thing.

I hope that some of the suggestions here will help you and IJ work through this together. No doubt it's something all parents have to deal with at some point, along with the 'where do babies come from' questions. IJ is just very lucky to have such an understanding and sensitive mum to support as she tries to figure all this out.

Much love x

cartside

To a certain extent I think that your daughter is going through a very normal phase and it will be frightening for her (and remain so? I remember falling into depression when I was 14 or 15 when I couldn't stop thinking about my own mortality, not nice, but I came out of it reasonably quickly), and it will pass.

I'm trying to be honest. My daughter is too young to really understand but she does ask where my mum is and when I explain that she died she will ask "my uncle too?", so she does understand that the person is no longer there. I would be careful about linking it to old age because in case she comes close to death of a younger person that may give her more anxiety. I try to put it in other ways, that sometimes, people get very very ill and their body stops working.

If you have google children and bereavement, you'll come across some resources, some books that can be read with children. They mostly refer to a grandparent dying, so it may tricky to find a suitable book which is general and doesn't make her worry about her granny or gandpa.

You can also try and explain about the circle of life, how leaves fall from the trees in autumn and die and become food for the soil, for new things to grow etc.

Acknowledge her fear and tell her it's ok to be anxious and to worry, that we all do sometimes, I think that can be very reassuring if she knows that her anxiety is normal and ok to have.

We don't use the concept of heaven. We try to keep things general. As a child, I found the idea of heaven scary anyway so I don't find it useful.

Chic Mama

I promise you six is such a normal age to start questioning death etc...getting worried about things, being very concerned about what they have seen on the television.
I think my girls were very concerned when Madeleine McCann disappeared and it worried them a lot. It has stayed with them. I think sometimes we need to protect them from the news which scares them too much at such young ages.
I hope LJ gets over it quickly, I'm sure she will. xx

TheMadHouse

So many great posts, I am of no help whatsoever on this, but will watch with interest

Lyn O'Brien

For what it's worth, 'the circle of life' conversation worked well for my young ones, with the example of the seasons in the garden especially the part about the flower when it dies provides the for growing many new plants. Mine children weren't upset, but it might provide a good starting point for further conversation. My son also uses the worse case scenerio discussion with his son's fears. Instead of assuring him, he problem solves with him. That has worked well so far.

Stigmum

My son's asked alot about death, his own and mine. I'm quite matter of fact with the facts: "Of course you'll die, so will I, but hopefully it will follow the natural order and I'll go first. Not for years though.." I'm quite spiritual and although I do lean on God a little bit, I don't talk about heaven. Only recently he's stopped taking 'Duckie' to school, he was so gutted to lose 'Quack Quack' and 'Cordy mouse' that I said that whereever they've gone, they're together. I use them in conversations about death.
Last night (sorry, your post is very timely)he couldn't settle to sleep again. He asked me this morning how I did it when I was little. I er, told him the truth; that I'd pretend I was in a coma, asleep in hospital because I wasn't well, and my mum was talking to me. Probably not ideal, he'll probably come back to me with this soon...should probably start investing in a few books!
Death is a huge question. Enormous. For adults as well as children. Thanks for the post x

theleapingtiger

Rosie,
I found the following websites very helpful when dealing with the same situation. One is from the hospice and the other from Dr. Miriam Stoppard. Hope it helps.

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

http://blogs.mirror.co.uk/dear-miriam/2009/03/how-to-tell-children-about-dea.html

angelsandurchinsblog

Mine didn't get much comfort from the concept of heaven. 'If they can look out and see us, why can't they climb out and come back?'. I remember being terrified of dying. We moved abroad for three years, when I was about six, and the thought of being nine when we returned was too much for me to take in. It seemed ancient, and I remember thinking that nine nearly meant being ten which meant being near death. Not entirely sure why, but look forward to hearing if you find a good book on this very tricky to discuss and explain subject. Because who can really explain it?

Emily Vest

My boys are asking about death a lot too, although, like Sally's Flea, Adam is 4 and therefore I think hasn't really grasped the concept of how permanent death is. We talk about it a lot.

Bosnia, however, is a country where death is a part of life. Dogs die on the roads all the time. The Funeral procession from the mosque over the road happens every week (cue many questions about where are they going? what are they going to do? what is in the box?). The pig nutured all year gets killed (and eaten) for Christmas. People don't shy away from it or try and protect children from it but are up front and say it like it is. For their kids, bought up in that environment, death is what happens and they don't seem to bothered by it.

I don't know what to suggest to you that is useful. But I think I like the circle of life ideas above. Great post Rosie, really thought provoking.

Erica

I'm not very cool with the whole dying thing, I try not to thing about it. Erin however is very matter of fact.

Let us know how you get on.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Alice. I thought about getting a fish but I'm really not a fan of anything non-human. The idea of stars in the sky is a really nice one. You have reminded me I should talk to IJ about all these sorts of things before I pass my driving test!

Rosie Scribble

Mrs W, I like your idea about being matter of fact about the whole issue of death and dying. That seems to have been a common theme throughout the comments. I also like the idea of saying that the odds are we will live to a ripe old age. Thanks so much for commenting.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Ian for taking the time to reply on a topic that obviously pushed many buttons for both you and Max. I like the idea of approaching these conversations as delicatly as possible yet being quite matter of fact about it as well. That is where I went wrong because I ended up as upset as IJ. That's why I wrote this post, to be better prepared when she raises the subject again as she no doubt will. Thanks again.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks CJ. IJ has come home several times upset about issues that have been discussed in school. I've felt as if I've had to put a damage limitation exercise in place as quickly as possible.

I like the idea of living life to the full now rather than wasting so much of it worrying about death. The comments on this post have taught me quite a lot too.

Jo Beaufoix

There are some brilliant comments here lovely, so so helpful. Let me know if you come up with anything and I'll see if I can find a few books we got for E when Mr B's Dad died. Hugs. x

Wendy Mallins

We went through the death stage when girly was 5 and her beautiful 35 year old godmother who she loved died of breast cancer - this opened up the huge can of worms as to who dies and why and when it happens?! It is a very difficult subject to deal with as you can never promise anything in relation to death. We settled on Aunty Kathy being a star angel in heaven & bless her great thought was given to the type of dress & wings she would have chosen (tears now... Still upsets me when think of it!) and so girly was content with angels & stars but random death questions still occur (usually at random times) I always try to answer honestly with emphasis on reassuring she will always be looked after by an extra special
person should *anything* happen - doesn't do to dwell on the topic though - tricky subject!

mumumumum

you are such a caring and thoughtful mum,you will give her the answers ahe needs,i too have a daughter who is emtionally younger than her younger sister.its hard to explain but, the library should be able to point you in the right diection

Kat

I lost my father when I was 8 (brother 6/7) and I think Sally's description fits my thinking at the time. It also sounds loving which is an important factor. As a young atheist the heavenly explanations irked me and made me feel cheated. My eldest is two and we talk about the cycle of life and I think it is important to have it in this context if we are not to dwell on the dying part only.

Diney

Death is such a massive concept for child or adult to come to terms with, and we have had the same situation with my 10 year old since she was about 7. She has suffered the loss of a much loved grandma and uncle, (plus a puppy and her cat, though I don't hold them in the same breath as humans,but she was devastated). In a post of mine Another Star in the Sky, Mummy I discussed my anxiety over allowing little E to say goodbye to yet another dying Uncle in hospital, and hoped I'd made the right decision in letting her do so. I think I did. He died just before Xmas, and the fact that she saw him just before he died and made him smile as their eyes held contact, and saw how tired he was of living with all the tubes and wires attached to his poor body, somehow helped her to accept that sometimes death is the better option. Also, we shielded her from her grandma's death, and didn't tell her for 3 days, nor did we discuss it as we thought it the best thing to do at that time. Apart from being hugely stressful for us, we made a mistake. We should have allowed her to show her grief and to talk about how she felt, but we did what we thought was best for her at that time. She still cries now for grandma, and is cross with us for not letting her say goodbye to her, and that makes me feel devastated but, as I say, we thought we were doing the best thing for her, and we will have to live with that huge error of judgment. The Lion King has helped with the circle of life theme, that we can only live on because of our forbears giving us life, and all nature is born, lives and dies or there would be no room left on earth for new babies. It's very individual, and so much depends on the child's own make-up. Mine is extremely sensitive; my son was more stoic about the concept, perhaps he just didn't question that we would ever leave him by dying, whereas little E worries often that she will be left. I wondered if little E was more worried than others because I was 45 when I had her, but, reading all the comments to your post, I realise that I am not alone with this hugely sensitive concept of death. Thank you for the post - I don't think I've been a help except to advise what NOT to do! I would do a post on it myself, but too many members of my family dip into my blog so I have to be very careful on my content. Her grandpa is now 94 and has just fallen into Dementia, and she knows he is going to die before long so we are having to face up to yet another situation..... but that's life!

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Tara. A lot of comments seem to be suggesting that the matter of fact approach to death seems the best option. I don't think me getting in as upset as IJ when she asked me about dying helped matters at all. But thankfully I have received so much helpful advice here that I'll be better prepared next time when we can have a more productive conversation. xx

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Josie! Sometimes I think I am too sensitive. Like you I don't think I've got my head around the whole death thing at all and I'm 36 (whispers quietly). You are right, we will work through this together and I think I'll learn alot from it all too. Maybe I'll start panicking about death also.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Jo. These comments have been so helpful and supportive I will probably write a follow-up post once I've tried out some different strategies with IJ. I've also ordered three books on Amazon (one was recommended by Sue in her earlier comment), if they are any good I'll include them in the post too. I've been overwhelmed with the response.

Rosie Scribble

Oh Wendy, thanks for your comment. Feeling slightly lost for words here. I suppose your comment emphasises the fact that it can happen even to people who are young, and as was pointed out earlier telling IJ people only die when they are old may cause problems. I like the idea of stars in the sky, a number of people have also mentioned that. I also like the idea of discussing the topic and not dwelling on it for too long, as you say. I will follow up any further discussion with IJ with a silly game or other distraction. Thnaks again x

Rosie Scribble

Many thanks for your comment. I sometimes find it difficult with a child you seems emotionally younger than her age. I find I have to be extra sensitive with the conversations we have, and even with what she watches on television. Many things that would be appropriate for a 6 year old just aren't for IJ.

Barbara

We've been having lots of death conversations lately. I'mhandling emotionally and badly! I look forward to your follow up post and book reviews.

Rosie Scribble

Hi Cartside, thanks so much for your comment. I agree with you that linking death to old age would cause anxiety if she heard of someone younger dying and of course she could easily pick that up on the news. Thanks for mentioning that. In my panic to give her some answers I didn't really think about what I was saying.

I will certain look into resources available on Google and I've managed to find some books on Amazon that might prove helpful. For some reason no-one had evet talked to me about the circle of life, so I'm going to look into that too.

Thanks again x

Rosie Scribble

Sorry to hear that Barbara. It's a distressing subject isn't it especially when it is close to home. I have received so much helpful advice on this post that hopefully I'll be able to produce a follow-up post that is of help to others. Take good care x

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Chic Mama. It is a relief to know it is quite normal at six to be questioning things. Thankfully IJ was too young to be aware of the Madeleine McCann story but it certainly affected me as they are exactly the same age. I am protecting her from the news at the moment even though her school have told her to watch Newsround. I feel she has enough to cope with.

Rosie Scribble

Quite a few people have said they are reading the comments on this post with interest. I'm so pleased I posted this as I felt completely inadequate in addressing the issue of death. I have been pointed in the direction of some very helpful resources. Hopefully I'll be able to write a follow-up post explaining what I have learnt.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Lyn. For some reason I was completely unaware of the circle of life conversation until I read it in the comments on this post. It is certainly something I am going to look into and I am sure it will prove extremely helpful in talking to my daughter. Thanks again.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Stigmum. Matter of fact seems to be the best way, according to a lot of these comments. It is difficult to know if you are getting it right, especially when you are parenting alone. I often feel as if I have no backup and no way of checking whether I am getting things right or not. I'm investing in a few books. If they prove to be helpful then I'll review them on my blog. Hopefully that will help others then.

Rosie Scribble

Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Those to links are extremely helpful. Suddenly the idea of talking to my daughter about death is alot less scary. Before I wrote this post I was clueless but I've recieved some really helpful advice and information. Thanks again.

Rosie Scribble

Thanks, I remember going through a similar panic about death and dying around the age of 9 and it seemed continue undiscussed into my teens. I have ordered a few books and will review them on my blog if I find them helpful.

Rosie Scribble

I like the idea that Erin is matter of fact about the issue of death and dying. Sounds like her head is screwed on the right way especially considering she is so young. I have recieved so much helpful advice on this post and I've been pointed in the direction of numerous resources that should prove helpful. I'm planning a follow-up post once I have had time to digest them all and once I have calmed IJ's current fears. xx

Rosie Scribble

Thanks Kat. So sorry to hear you lost your father at such a young age. I like the sound of Sally's description too and also the idea of the circle of life which I had given absolutely no thought to before receiving the comments on this post. Thanks again x

Rosie Scribble

Diney, thanks so much for taking the time to comment on a subject that is clearly close to home. When my grandfather died (I was 14) my mother flew to Ireland for his funeral and the issue was never discussed again. I felt alone and confused with my grief and found there was no outlet for it. So as you have learnt yourself, and I am realising with my daughter now, it is something that need to be talked about. It is hard to get it right all the time.

As parents we try to do what we feel is best, as you did by shielding your daughter from her grandma's death. It is only later we realise maybe we should have done things differently. How moving though that she was able to say goodbye to her uncle and I am sure that would have meant a lot to him too (welling up now). Sometimes it very difficult to know what is for the best. When my daughter asked about dying a few days ago I ended up crying with her. I feel really guilty about that because I don't think it helped matters at all. I'll be better prepared next time.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment, it has been hugely helpful. x

Mwa

Tough one. We already had a phase like that when my son was four, and he's still obsessing a little, but luckily mostly about when I'm going to die, and not him. Good luck with it - you should do a follow-up if you try to tackle the subject.

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