Talking about death and burials with a three-year-old - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 06:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I know this has been discussed before and I am glad about it because I wasn’t totally unprepared when it happened. But it’s coming up more and more now and I am out of my depth.

The things my three-year-old worries about:
He wants to make sure he does not ever want to grow old because old people get buried. When he dies, he does not ever want to be with God but just live in a house with all of us. He wonders what it is like to be with God. Will everyone else be there? Can you walk around in heaven?
He does not understand how, once you are buried, you get out again to be with God. That’s when I tried to explain the concept of “soul” to him. He insisted he did not get it (can’t blame him, I am not too solid on this ground either). Major meltdown at this point.
He wants to know how young he is. He wants to know how young I am. He understands that Grandpa is fairly old but wants to know just how old. This morning he insisted again he does not understand how burying works and wants to know. I copped out and explained I’d tell him as soon as he was bigger because it is something the young do not need to know about. He stopped asking for the moment but he clearly wasn't satisfied and will ask again, I know.

Any suggestions?
I think my husband has already mentioned to the inlaws that they are not to take him to the cemetery anymore (he used to love to help watering the flowers). I’ll mention it again.
We try not to talk about people who have died (that’s a hard one).
But I think it is really too late for all of this – the thoughts are there, the worries are there and I will have to have answers soon. My mom tells me that after my great-grandmother’s funeral, I asked her that when I died, would she share the coffin with me, as I was so afraid of having to be underground alone. It IS a scary concept. If I could avoid explaining, I would.
Oh, and if anyone wants to talk me out of my worries that this is his way of working through the separation anxieties he has because I am a working mom that would be welcome, too!

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#2 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 09:06 AM
 
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Hi there. I found it difficult to get what it was you are after from your post. I understand your son is afraid of dying? Or is her afraid of you/other loved ones dying? We try to speak very matter of factly about death with our three year old. We make a point if it ever comes up of saying that we will all die eventually, then if we feel it's needed we will talk about missing people who have died and perhaps even feeling sad. It seems to be working well so far although no-one particularly close to her has died yet (only "met once or twice" kind of people and a few animals she knew well). She has plenty of fears but none around death. Personally I would think that not talking about people who have died would do nothing to help and possibly even compound the problem if he senses a taboo.
I'd love to talk you out of it being a way to work through separation anxiety but I actually think you might be onto something. Sorry

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#3 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 09:36 AM
 
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Do you mind mentioning what religion your family practices, if any? And are you trying to make sure he shares your beliefs, or are you trying to console him in a more general way?
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#4 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 12:00 PM
 
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When my mom died, we got these books for DS.
We had actually started off with this book, When Someone You Loves Has Cancer, when my mom was sick.

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#5 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 01:23 PM
 
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To be honest I thought it would be much easier if your family is practising a religion. We don't and we simply told DS1 that we have no idea what happens after a person dies, and gave him a brief overview of what different religions believe in.

I read somewhere that what a child is really concerned about when exploring death for the first time is "what will happen to me if mum/dad dies?" The suggested response is to reassure them that you're not going to die until he's very capable of looking after himself, and that there will always be a network of friends and family there for him. This seemed to be very reassuring to DS1.

We read about lifespans of different animals, we talked about lifespans of our relatives, including his great grandmother who is still alive. We talked about factors that affect a person's lifespan, and that when an old person dies, it's ok because the person has had a full lifetime to do what he/she wants to do. When a young person dies, it's unexpected and a pity because he's not yet done all that he would have wanted (this last part because ds1 had a self-destructive streak).

We talked about different things people do with the bodies and ashes of the dead (throw into the sea, bury in garden, make into diamonds, donate to science etc), and that ultimately everything goes back to regenerating the soil (throw in some science books on decomposition).

But seriously, if you feel that your child is not ready to explore this head on, then by all means, don't feel you have to. If he says he wants to live in a house with you after he dies, you can just play along and say,"I would love to do that too!" and give a hug. A more light-hearted approach would be less anxiety-inducing for the child.
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#6 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 01:39 PM
 
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We went through this with Phoenix when he was around 3. It took a while for him to process the whole death thing.

Phoenix initiated the conversation by asking what happens when people We're atheists, so we told our kids what we believe: when the body is broken, it stops working and the person is dead. They don't go anywhere. They just don't work anymore. Because we love the person, we are very careful with their broken body and we put into a box in the ground and keep it there, so nothing happens to it.

DS2 drills down on every single piece of information he gets, so we had lots and lots of questions. We had go through the basic "when you're dead, you're dead" speech many times. We had to talk about what kinds of things can make you dead and all the ways the body can stop working. We had to go through how people feel about it when someone they love dies. We had to talk many, many times about how Mom and Dad and Uncle D. aren't going to die for a long time (when they're really old) and he won't die for an even longer time (when he is really old.) We had to talk specifically about what happened when my father died (Heart attack) and what we did with his body (funeral mass and burial) and how I felt about it when he died (sad and grieving) and how I feel about it now (sad, but not grief-stricken, and I like remembering my father and talking about him).

This process took months. He's over it now. He gets it and is comfortable with it.

Somewhere in the middle of that process, though, he suggested that dead people don't go to heaven they join the pirates after they die. (I think he watched Pirates of the Caribbean at Grandma's house.)
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#7 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 01:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your input!

To clarify:
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Originally Posted by greenmamapagan View Post
Hi there. I found it difficult to get what it was you are after from your post. I understand your son is afraid of dying? Or is her afraid of you/other loved ones dying?
All of it I think. I think he has copped on to the fact that death is about a permanent separation, that it happens to old people and that being buried in the ground is involved. That's why he wants to find out who is currently in danger and what exactly might happen. He is a very sensitive and anxious child and I am afraid that actually understanding how burying works is not something he could cope with at this point. But it appears to me that he did not find the part about God and heaven that much more appealing either. He was on the point of freaking out about it, repeating obsessively that he did not want to go to God but stay with us so I just kept telling him "It's okay!" and "I'll take care of it!". But of course I won't be able to, really, and he'll find out.

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Personally I would think that not talking about people who have died would do nothing to help and possibly even compound the problem if he senses a taboo.
I actually agree with you there. And it's a total cop out on my part. But whenever death comes up (of a grand aunt he never knew, or of a historical figure he asks about) he will go all panicky again and ask "Who's died? Why?". I just don't want to set him off if I can avoid it. It is not a useful strategy in the long run - we read chapter books now in which so-and-so who has died comes up, and I neither want to censure books nor do I want to censure talking about loved ones (we LIKE talking about our grandparents who have died, it makes me feel closer to them and I like wearing stuff I've inherited from them and be reminded, like a beautiful scarf, a watch, gloves...). But I need a good coping strategy for the next time he's off on the death track again, and answers we can both feel comfortable with. I'm sure he senses I'm not comfortable with the topic!, and that it generally ends in a meltdown hasn't helped either of us. (He had a meltdown even when I tried to teach him how to ask for help if he ever got lost - he just couldn't deal with the idea at all). So I am asking for suggestions - what has worked for those with asynchronous children who are trying to understand death at a very young age?
I want to add that I will put my foot down on the cemetery visits at this point.

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I'd love to talk you out of it being a way to work through separation anxiety but I actually think you might be onto something. Sorry
Don't worry - I asked, and I can take it! Sigh

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Do you mind mentioning what religion your family practices, if any? And are you trying to make sure he shares your beliefs, or are you trying to console him in a more general way?
We're practicing catholics but not very strictly. I admit, however, at this point to just trying to milk religion for whatever consolation it has to offer. So far it does not appear to have worked very well.

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#8 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, two new posts just while i was typing! Thank you!
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But seriously, if you feel that your child is not ready to explore this head on, then by all means, don't feel you have to. If he says he wants to live in a house with you after he dies, you can just play along and say,"I would love to do that too!" and give a hug. A more light-hearted approach would be less anxiety-inducing for the child.
Thank you. I truly think he isn't ready. I am a terrible liar and do believe in giving honest information, but only as much as a child can cope with. So that is a good idea - after all, it is a wonderful thought that heaven is like being in a house with the people you love forever.

I also was surprised that religion did not appear to make this easier... well, I am glad at least I do not feel compelled by my beliefs to teach him about hell (though he heard about the concept that good people go to heaven and bad people to hell somewhere, can't remember, and we noticed it concerned him for a while, though he did not bring it in conjunction with death).

Quote:
Somewhere in the middle of that process, though, he suggested that dead people don't go to heaven they join the pirates after they die. (I think he watched Pirates of the Caribbean at Grandma's house.)
That's also a nice thought!
I wish I could just give him the matter of fact information, about the body stopping to work and being put in the ground. However, I am afraid what his very strong imagination might make of the information at this point. I know what it's like to have a strong imagination like that - I cannot cope with my worries about my loved ones dying very well myself, and I am ten times older!

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#9 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 02:29 PM
 
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My son has had an early understanding about death as we went to many many funerals during his pre-school years. He even saw a close family friend a few hours before died and then saw him in the casket at the funeral. I have to admit that that in an odd way helped him. He could personally see that Joe (my friend) was sick and he could understand that he's free from pain right now. He could feel my love and sorrow that Joe was gone but he was able to understand that Joe is in a better place now (we are also Catholic). We have also talked about my Great Aunt and how she loved him so much and died when he was a baby and we talk about how she was looking forward to going and seeing Jesus (she was a nun). We talk about how we know that if she can see him from heaven she still loves him just as much.

The only death he still seems to be processing was a suicide. Honestly, we just tell him that we don't understand either. And the pain and confusion my uncle left behind because of his choice to take his own life is one of the reasons it was a wrong thing to do.

To explain about a persons soal we spent alot of time talking about what makes a person who they are. We talked about why we are friends with the people we are friends with. We talked about what makes people special. We usually concluded that we like our friends because of who they are not what they look like. And what makes up a person is their personality not their body.

Basically if my kids have a question about death I answer it as matter of factually as possible. It's common to come back to it several times.

We did talk about the fact that Mom and Dad are going to take as good of care of themselves and of them to ensure that we don't die for a very long time. We talked about what would happen to them if we were to die. My kids know that my Mom and Dad will care for them if anything happens to us and they know that if Grandma and Papa can't do it their uncle will. We actually had one of those long "well what if he's not here then what" where I ended up going down a very long line of people who can care for him if something were to happen to us.

That was a book and I don't even know if I said anything. But that is how we have handled it in the past. It was basically just keeping the lines of communication open and answering as truthfully and as best as we could when we were asked questions.

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#10 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 04:08 PM
 
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I told my DD that dead bodies can't see or hear or think or feel anything - that they're not even really people anymore, just things like sticks that lie there without knowing anything and gradually rot into dirt. Maybe that idea would actually be less scary for your DS than wondering what it would feel like to be buried, or how he would find his way out of the grave and into heaven. I didn't talk about souls or heaven (well, I eventually brought up the concept, but DD knows I don't believe in it), but it seems like you could combine the idea of a soul with the idea that the thing being buried isn't you anymore and isn't aware of anything. Of course, then he still has to wonder about how his soul will like being in heaven, but maybe you could tell him heaven is supposed to be the most wonderful, perfect place you can imagine, and fantasize together about what it might be like. (If talking about heaven that way doesn't go against your religious beliefs.) You would be there with him, of course, and maybe he could eat his favorite foods every day, and maybe there'd be a bouncy house . . . We've had discussions about what heaven could be like - just fantasizing for fun - and the kids seem to enjoy it. (DD thought there would be crafts in heaven.)

The few times DD got really sad about having to die someday, I just told her that everyone feels that way. No one wants to die, and everyone wishes they didn't have to. It's one of the most difficult things about being human.

For a 3 year old, maybe just keeping the topic of death from coming to mind is the best approach, but I can imagine that taking the opposite tack could actually be helpful too. If you started taking him to the cemetery a lot, maybe it would bring up a lot of worried thoughts at first, but maybe soon it would start to seem pretty ordinary, and so would the idea of people dying and being buried. I'm not one of those people who claim to be at peace with the idea of dying, and unafraid of death. I'm definitely scared of it. But I enjoy walking around in cemeteries - my kids and I do that a lot - and I find it makes me feel calmer and less worried about death, not more. (But of course, I'm not 3.)
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#11 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 05:51 PM
 
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Would the connection between death and sleeping be helpful, or just freak him out about sleeping? I can see it as a way I might explain some things about death.

We see a fair bit of road kill around here, and as luck would have it, my parents had to put their dog down when we were there at Christmastime. For us there luckily hasn't been a lot of fear attached to the death thing - we've been open about the sadness we feel, but that the dead person/animal doesn't feel sad or bad.

I have a book from Amazon called Gentle Willow (it is supposed to be for kids who are dying of cancer or the like), and I really like how it focuses on the change aspect of death, but lets you have your own religion (it doesn't push any). That might be something to consider reading with your son.

I think too that having the book as a normal one on the shelf to pull out whenever is helpful with normalizing the topic of death.


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ETA: I had another thought - would learning about life cycles help? Another way to normalize death. A little boy I watch talks about salmon a lot right now (they are running in the river) and that they "spawn and then die". We even walked along the river and saw lots of evidence!
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#12 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 06:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JollyGG View Post
The only death he still seems to be processing was a suicide. Honestly, we just tell him that we don't understand either. And the pain and confusion my uncle left behind because of his choice to take his own life is one of the reasons it was a wrong thing to do.
What a hard thing for kids to process - and grown-ups too. I am sorry you all have had to cope with that one.

Quote:
To explain about a persons soal we spent alot of time talking about what makes a person who they are. We talked about why we are friends with the people we are friends with. We talked about what makes people special. We usually concluded that we like our friends because of who they are not what they look like. And what makes up a person is their personality not their body.
I like that! I imagine your child was a little older though? I don't think DS would get that yet. I explained that the soul was our thoughts and feelings and those couldn't be buried. Didn't help much - I think three is a very literal stage, no matter what a child's verbal abilities are.

Quote:
Basically if my kids have a question about death I answer it as matter of factually as possible. It's common to come back to it several times.

We did talk about the fact that Mom and Dad are going to take as good of care of themselves and of them to ensure that we don't die for a very long time. We talked about what would happen to them if we were to die. My kids know that my Mom and Dad will care for them if anything happens to us and they know that if Grandma and Papa can't do it their uncle will. We actually had one of those long "well what if he's not here then what" where I ended up going down a very long line of people who can care for him if something were to happen to us..
Bolding mine. My worry is that he would not be able to handle the thought of this at all at this point, so be unable to feel comforted by what I'm telling him. I guess I'll stick to insisting how young and healthy we all are as long as I can...

Quote:
That was a book and I don't even know if I said anything. But that is how we have handled it in the past. It was basically just keeping the lines of communication open and answering as truthfully and as best as we could when we were asked questions.
I think I do get what you are saying - how important it is that if they DO come up with the questions, to make sure they know they can always come to us and ask - that we are there for them, even if it is hard stuff we need to explain to them and even if we are sometimes unable to explain.
I need to keep this in mind whenever I feel tempted to just avoid the topic - I think it is sort of what greenmamapagan was getting at too, that a perceived taboo might be even worse because it stops them from sharing what's scaring them and then we cannot help at all.

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#13 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Of course, then he still has to wonder about how his soul will like being in heaven, but maybe you could tell him heaven is supposed to be the most wonderful, perfect place you can imagine, and fantasize together about what it might be like. (If talking about heaven that way doesn't go against your religious beliefs.)
Oh, they're woolly enough as it is!

Quote:
You would be there with him, of course, and maybe he could eat his favorite foods every day, and maybe there'd be a bouncy house . . . We've had discussions about what heaven could be like - just fantasizing for fun - and the kids seem to enjoy it. (DD thought there would be crafts in heaven.)
I think if I could get the idea planted that death isn't a permanent separation but a permanent togetherness... [wheels turning fast]. Not the bouncy house, though, no way (those compressors are really noisy. A perfect heaven for DS must be a quiet place, just music!)

Quote:
The few times DD got really sad about having to die someday, I just told her that everyone feels that way. No one wants to die, and everyone wishes they didn't have to. It's one of the most difficult things about being human.
Sure is! I wish he did not have to cope with it at three...

Quote:
If you started taking him to the cemetery a lot, maybe it would bring up a lot of worried thoughts at first, but maybe soon it would start to seem pretty ordinary, and so would the idea of people dying and being buried. I'm not one of those people who claim to be at peace with the idea of dying, and unafraid of death. I'm definitely scared of it. But I enjoy walking around in cemeteries - my kids and I do that a lot - and I find it makes me feel calmer and less worried about death, not more. (But of course, I'm not 3.)
I wish I could use that approach, because it calms me down, too.
maybe it is really the anxiety part I need to approach first.

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#14 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 07:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
When my mom died, we got these books for DS.
We had actually started off with this book, When Someone You Loves Has Cancer, when my mom was sick.
I
Quote:
have a book from Amazon called Gentle Willow (it is supposed to be for kids who are dying of cancer or the like), and I really like how it focuses on the change aspect of death, but lets you have your own religion (it doesn't push any). That might be something to consider reading with your son.

I think too that having the book as a normal one on the shelf to pull out whenever is helpful with normalizing the topic of death.
Thank you for the book suggestions! I will keep them in mind. I think at some point he will need to explore death in more depth, and I will have to be ready.
I also like the life cycle idea. Good topic in fall! But yes, I think likening death to sleep might freak him out about sleep. I truly have a very sensitive little guy.

I am so sorry I am making all of you think about the deaths you have recently experienced, and recall how you have explained them to your children!

Thank you! This is helping so much - particularly with understanding why I have such a hard time coping with this myself...

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#15 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 09:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Tigerle View Post
I think he has copped on to the fact that death is about a permanent separation, that it happens to old people and that being buried in the ground is involved. That's why he wants to find out who is currently in danger and what exactly might happen.
OK, this is what I mean by saying we try to be very matter of fact about death with DD. If she ever starts to go along this path (and she's never got into the fear anywhere as much as your DS ) we make a point of explaining that we will all die and that we can't actually predict when it will happen. Daddy may well have an unexpected heart attack tomorrow, it's just more likely to happen to Grandad first. We also make a point though of following up with "we hope it doesn't happen for a long time".
We find focussing on the actual physical reality really helps too. DD is very interested in anatomy and physiology so the idea of the heart no longer beating, lungs no longer functioning etc is easy for her to grasp and holds her interest. This is where advanced development can be handy because we can address individual fears as they pop up, such as feeling pain - nerve endings no longer functioning.
I agree with the pp about saying you'd love to share the coffin or a house in heaven or whatever comes up btw.
I had more to write but DD needs some attention now.

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#16 of 26 Old 11-12-2009, 09:49 PM
 
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Moving to Childhood Years, as this is a common topic at this age and you'll get more input there.

HeatherB ~ mama to 3 wonderful boys:  reading.gif 03/02; modifiedartist.gif09/04; sleepytime.gif 09/07 - and Eliana, babygirl.gif 11/13/10!  
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#17 of 26 Old 11-13-2009, 03:09 AM
 
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I wanted to comment on a couple of things here. First, I don't think you need to feel any guilt about being a working mother. My own mother was a SAHM and I raised the whole death question with her about a dead bug I found in the shower stall at the public pool. Yup, she got to have this discussion in public. Guess how old I was? Yup, three. I think this is a very very normal issue for three year olds to raise. Our son also had a lot of questions at three. Each child will at some point start to understand and think about death, completely regardless of whether their mother works outside the home or not.

We didn't go into a lot of detail about burial when we got these questions from my son. Though he also didn't focus his questions on that topic. We did talk about heaven, which I believe in, but my DH does not. So, I led the discussions. I really think it is also OK for these to be somewhat difficult unresolved discussions. So, as hard as it is, I wouldn't approach this as "the cat's out of the bag and I need answers quick." Which of us can claim to have come to our own understanding of death quickly? Can any of us be sure that we are finished understanding death? But it kind of reminds me of what my DH says whenever I get sad about the kids growing up - he says, they are *arriving* more and more every day, as they get more verbal and more able to talk about complicated things. I guess my point here is that you are going to be talking about death with your children off and on for as long as you are both alive. This is the beginning of the topic, not the ending.

For us, it was harder when we confronted an actual death. Our much-loved kitty died when DS was 4.5. He marched right through whatever that sequence of emotions is: denial, anger, sadness, acceptance, etc. He got through them MUCH faster than I did, which I think is also pretty typical for children. The thing I found most satisfying about this process was just being with him while he had those emotions. I couldn't bring our kitty back, but I could hold him while he raged against the vet and while he sobbed about her being gone forever. We had a little ceremony for her and talked about what a nice kitty she was. He didn't watch while we buried her - actually that was too hard for me too so DH did it.

I guess my point here is, this IS hard and you don't need to fix that. I think it's a great idea to reassure your little guy that his parents will be around for a long, long time. If he wants to imagine heaven as everyone living in a big house together, why not? If he really really insists that he wants to know about burial and how it works, I would probably tell him. If he throws a tantrum when he finds out that "only" your soul goes to heaven, well, he's hardly the first or the last to have that reaction to that news. I'd keep trying to emphasize that he'll not have to worry about this for a long long time.
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#18 of 26 Old 11-13-2009, 03:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Moving to Childhood Years, as this is a common topic at this age and you'll get more input there.
Thank you, I was wondering whether I was posting in the appropriate forum or not. I suppose it is really more about high sensitivity and an über-strong imagination, rather than an earlier understanding. I am looking forward to more input!

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#19 of 26 Old 11-13-2009, 04:32 AM
 
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We went through a time when DS was really into talking about death. It coincided with his developing anxiety, which was related to an illness I had had. We took him to a psychologist for the anxiety, which had come to include a lot of concern about death (not saying you should do this - just to give you background). She said that questions about death are really developmentally appropriate around 4 years old - some kids a little earlier, some a little later - because they are just beginning to really grasp permanence as it applies to them as an individual. They are just getting that they or you won't be here forever. Most kids that age don't have a real solid understanding of time, either, which means that they don't really get how far off death is for most people. It can make even a kid who isn't anxious feel like they need to get a better grasp of it all - which means asking more questions and talking about it a lot.

So, we were told to actually engage in talk about it, read books about it, etc. Not talking about it, stopping regular activities that he normally did like watering the flowers at the cemetery can actually cause more insecurity about it - they pick up that you are avoiding it. I totally get that it is uncomfortable, though. I know I found it hard to hear my little one talk so much about death. He will pass through it, though. It hasn't come up in ages in our house.
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#20 of 26 Old 11-13-2009, 04:35 AM
 
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Just another book suggestion:
Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie http://www.amazon.com/Lifetimes-Brya...8097579&sr=8-1

It talks about death as being part of the life cycle, what being alive means, and connects people, plants, and animals. It's really soothing and the illustrations are beautiful.

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#21 of 26 Old 11-13-2009, 01:16 PM
 
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I told my DD that dead bodies can't see or hear or think or feel anything - that they're not even really people anymore, just things like sticks that lie there without knowing anything and gradually rot into dirt. Maybe that idea would actually be less scary for your DS than wondering what it would feel like to be buried, or how he would find his way out of the grave and into heaven.
This is how we've explained it, too, and the kids have had a fairly easy time processing not only the idea of death but also the deaths of loved ones (most recently their grandfather). We don't believe in an afterlife, and so we just talk about the things that can be done with a body when a person dies (they know their poppy was cremated, saw his casket go into the oven -- which prompted an "Are we going to eat him?!" from my son -- I'd been calling it a fire, so I think his uncle saying "oven" threw him for a moment) and they know that everyone will die and we don't really know when -- we all hope to live for a very, very long time yet, but we can't promise it.

Both kids are 100% more comfortable with death than I was as a kid (who was raised Catholic and also absolutely loathed the idea of going to heaven). Maybe you could drop that -- at least for the time being -- and eventually frame it as something that some people believe, rather than fact.

Shying away from the topic isn't going to help anything -- he's just going to keep wondering but feel like he can't talk to you, which isn't something you want to start!

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#22 of 26 Old 11-16-2009, 12:29 AM
 
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simply put you just answer your child's question. directly. dont read anything more into it. just answer the questions he asks. that will be the biggest and best clue for you.

from the questions you are asking i can see you are reading far more into it.

remember the death question for some kids including mine start at 3 but they go on till they are 4 or 5. as they grow older they understand more and the question changes.

i remember my dd had two ways of asking questions. one was emotional. the what if. and then teh purely information part.

i treated the answer exactly how she asked it. somedays she cried for a few days off and on that the older folks will die and i never denied it but supported her thru the tears. they get over it.

at 4 she asked me about what happens to the body and we talked about most major religions of the world. then we both planned our own funeral including a menu.

the best thing to do is to exactly answer the question without offering any more information than they asked.

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#23 of 26 Old 11-16-2009, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all.
We had another question yesterday, wether "died" means that people aren't alive anymore, and keeping all this advice in mind, we answered matter-of-factly, like the semantics question it might have been. I was holding my breath, but he seemed to mull it over and be satisfied for the moment.
It is interesting and unsettling that others have had the experience that the concept of heaven appears to be disturbing rather than soothing. Hmm. I am going to educate myself on how to present the concept of lifecycles. Thank you for the suggestions!

Edited to say that it is also helpful to read that asking these questions really is developmentally appropriate, not necessarily an anxiety or separation issue (though I do think his high sensitivity makes it harder for him to cope with these discoveries).

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#24 of 26 Old 11-16-2009, 01:19 PM
 
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tigerle, my dd was 3 1/2. we were at the airport waiting for our flight and so was snacking at a restaurant. and she asks me 'but mama exactly what happens when we die. how do we die.' so i had to think and give her some answer but mainly also tell her i am not really sure. i dont know all the facts. we went to all the different kinds of death. it was a 'curiosity' question not an emotional one. but right before takeoff for a 18 hour flight?!!! yikes gave me the creeps.

she learnt about suicide when she was 6. pretty much by 7 she knows everything about death and sex and babies.

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#25 of 26 Old 11-16-2009, 02:22 PM
 
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I wonder if a child being unsettled by the idea of heaven might be because they have a somewhat negative image of God? I mean, the idea - that we are with God forever and that we are at peace and happy and together - however one chooses to interpret what that means of the sacred texts - would generally be a great idea IF you liked God. If you didn't, well then of course it'd be unpleasant.

I think uncertainty is unsettling for some too, and there is no way to spell out the tangible realities of the afterlife - there are a lot of great metaphors and poetic passages about it, but I guess that aspect of how you can't REALLY know until you get there might be part of it too.

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#26 of 26 Old 11-17-2009, 01:45 AM
 
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I think God is pretty hard to grasp. For children and adults. Whether you like God or not - being with God is sure different than being here on earth with mom and dad and everyone you care about. I believe in God and I believe in heaven and I don't care how great it is there - I don't want to go anytime soon and I don't want anyone I am close to going anytime soon either.
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