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Okay, so DS *hasn't* asked me this yet, but I foresee it. Our old, dear dog is going to die soon (he's 13).
I've bought the book Saying Goodbye to Lulu to give to DS when I think the time is right. So, when we start talking about beings dying, it seems inevitable that this question will come up.

And I obviously don't want to lie, but it also seems cruel to make a child worry unnecessarily. So has this come up for any of you? How do you respond?

thanks,
Erin
 

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This came up for us and I bungled it at first, and fixed it later.


I think it was actually ds asking me if HE was going to die one day, and I panicked and started telling him something like he was young and healthy and daddy and I were here to take care of him, so no he wasn't going to die. But not only did that not feel right to me, I could tell by the way he was looking at me that it didn't make sense to him. He was just starting to piece together that living things die, and although he didn't have it all figured out, he knew enough to know that my answer was not really true.

He asked me again a few days later, and I took that opportunity to tell him that every living thing dies, but that he's very young and doesn't need to worry about that right now, or something along those lines. But he almost seem reassured that my answer because my answer made more sense.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I would tell the truth, that all living things die at some point. I found the harder question to answer was "Where do we go when we die?" All I could come up with was that no one really knows, and different people believe different things.
 

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Here's our first conversation about this (T is our son, then age 3 1/2, M is me.) I guess I was just trying to answer his questions fully, without scaring him. We've had a number of conversations about death. They come up about every 3-6 months. His latest question is how old he will be when he dies. (He's 5, and numbers and ages are big right now!)

Background: We often go through the pictures on the wall before bedtime, naming all the various relatives. We always end with our wedding picture.) He asked what we were doing in our wedding picture. (He was born 7 years after we were married, by the way.) I told him that we were getting married. He then asked

T: and was I still in your tummy then?
M: yes, you were so tiny we didn't even know you were there.
T then asked a series of questions about how he was born - did the doctor help me out? Then he asked:
T: when were you little, mama?
M: I was little when I lived with Grandma and Grandpa.
T: and were you in their tummy?
M: yes, I was in Grandma's tummy at one point in time.
T: and when was Grandma little?
M: When she lived with HER mom and dad, my grandma and grandpa and your great grandparents.
T: and was she in her mama's tummy?
M: yes, she was in my grandma's tummy.
T: where is your grandma?
M: my grandma was killed in a car accident.
T: why?
M: (explained the accident story, concluding with sometimes when there's a really, really bad accident, the doctors can't fix it)
T: and is your grandma dead?
M: yes she is.
T: will you die?
M: well, yes, someday, a long time from now, I will die.
T: why?
M: well, sometimes when we get old, or we get really, really sick and the doctor's can't make us better, we die.
T: Where do we go?
M; Then we go into heaven with God.
T: where's God?
M: in heaven.
T: where's God in heaven?
M: I don't really know. That's a good question. Maybe we should ask Pastor Susan.
T: when we will ask Pastor Susan?
M: well, if we see her on Tuesday. Or maybe I'll send her an e-mail and ask her. Should I do that?
T: OK
 

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We are very honest about these types of things. Our older son has asked exactly that, and I say "Yes, but probably not for a long long long long time, so you don't need to worry about that now".
He knows that his grandpa died because he was sick and very old, and sometimes when people get really old they are "ready to die", but no matter how or why they die it's very sad.
He knows that when people die their bodies are "all done working". But that we can remember them and talk about them and look at pictures of them.
 

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I was perfectly honest with dd when this came up. She was just turning 4. There were lots of tears and hugging, but I told her the truth. I explained that anyone could die at any time, but most people live to become old. I didn't promise her that I would be around any length of time, but told her that I hope to live to see her have babies (lots of tears on this one). One thing I was adamant about (to myself) was that I would not make any promises that I wasn't sure I could keep (like living to see another day). I explained that we are part of the cycle of life and that when we die we help other things live (in broad terms, I didn't talk about decay and such). We talked and cried together about it for about an hour and since then, she's been very nonchalant about it. She hasn't been traumatised. I think as long as you give your children the simple facts, knowing that later you can give more details, they will be fine with it. I wouldn't lie about it or make promises like "I promise I will live to see you get married" when you just don't know.

I'm not looking forward to the "will I see you again after you die" conversation because while dh thinks this is it, I'm still trying to figure out what I believe.
 

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Yeah, we've been pretty honest as well.

"Yes, everyone dies eventually. We are healthy and we hope we will be alive for lots longer, until we are old. But eventually we will all die. We have lots and lots of life left, though, to enjoy together!"

And we have had the after-death conversation. I'm still sorting out my own feelings on that one. But we covered how nobody REALLY knows what happens, but people have lots and lots of ideas, and most people just think it is probably the way that feels right, like sometimes you just know you are right. We talked about what I believe (that we continue on after death but in what form, I'll find out when I get there) and about some of the different beliefs of our relatives and friends. I don't feel the need to give my children definitive answers about something that HAS no definitive answers. I think that they understand this.
 

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We have also been completely honest (well, relatively speaking) with our children about death. They both seem to have no problems with it and know that *probably* they will be adults before their dad or I die. And if not, that someone else in our family will take good care of them.
 

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I say yes, I am, but I do everything in my power to live a long life-i.e. take care of my health, drive alertly and safely, etc. etc. I also say that even if I'm not physically here I will always be in her heart and memories, and will be loving and watching over her always-all of the above seems to satisfy her for now. Now I'm going to go have a little cry!
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by mata
I say yes, I am, but I do everything in my power to live a long life-i.e. take care of my health, drive alertly and safely, etc. etc. I also say that even if I'm not physically here I will always be in her heart and memories, and will be loving and watching over her always-all of the above seems to satisfy her for now. Now I'm going to go have a little cry!

This is how I put it also.

My husband and I are Christian and take our daughters to church, so I explained what we believe and they others believe other things--although I didn't talk about the belief that we just turn into dust and no longer "be" because I don't think a 4 yo would stomach that very well.

I also related to her fears and feelings by telling her about my conversations with my mom when I was a kid. I cried and told her that I don't want to die any time soon and that I want us all to have 100 birthdays but it's not up to me and that I'll try my best. I also reminded her of all the wonderful family and friends we have here to be with her in case something should happen to me earlier than expected. I told she would definitely miss me but that she would also be ok and still have a happy life.
 

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We have talked about death a few times but she has never asked the "Are you going to die?" question.

Our elderly neighbour (85 but in excellent shape living on his own) died about 2 months ago. We shared a driveway with him so we are pretty close neighbours and saw him every day. Dd had alot of fun with him. One day Dh and I found him siting in his chair, and he was dead. We had a brief talk about what we would tell Dd--and then I told her that Grandpa "Rel" had lived a long long time and he was all done living now. He was dead. She was sad and a little clingy that week, and asked often where he was. I said he was in heaven with god. That really seemed to comfort her, especially knowing that we would see him again sometime, which I really do believe. I think being honest about it is the best thing--it may be sad and upsetting at first, but I think it's important for kids to learn how to grieve too. It would be wrong to smooth it over with silly lies--in the long run that would be much harder.
 

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A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly. His son is 2.5 and a good friend of my son's. So we've had a lot of talks about dying lately. I've told him that most people don't die until they are very old, and that mommy will probably live a very long time, until he has kids and grandkids of his own. Sometimes people get hurt or sick, and sometimes people die because something just goes wrong in their body and we don't know why (like our friend). When we die, our bodies or ashes go into the ground to help flowers and trees grow, and we are gone forever. And people have to die to make room on the earth for new little babies.
The hardest part was when he asked me, "O misses his daddy. Does his daddy miss him?" and I had to tell him that in my belief system, he does not, because he's gone now.
One day Julian said "Everybody dies, right mom?" and I said, "Yes, does that make you sad?" and he said no. I'm pretty amazed with how well he seems to understand and deal with death- better than me, even.
I think being open and honest with your beliefs (and that you don't necessarily know all the answers) is what counts.
 

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Just today I overheard my 6 yr old was telling my 3 yr old that they would outlive me and Dh. I don't know how the conversation started.

In the past we've shared with our son our belief that we will be together again in heaven, and that we will miss each other but see eachother again, but wouldn't assume that saying you don't know or that you believe death is the end would freak your kids out if you're at peace about it.
 

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I agree with previous posters. I think a helpful thing was to answer only my daughter's questions and not give any more information. Then when she is/was ready for me I provided that to her. So the simple (or not so) answer to her question was yes every living thing dies. I also agree with pp to assure our children that it will not be for a long time and talk about healthy things we do to keep ourselves well. Although, of course, none of this is a guarantee.
 

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This one came up early in my son's life... he is now three, and it is old news for him it seems. I have helped with pet rescue, and as such we have had WONDERFUL animals in our lives come and go quite a bit. Almost always, when they go that means that they have found great forever homes of their very own. Sometimes it is hard to say bye to certain pets that have touched us deeply, but for the most part we have shown our son how to appriciate and love something or someone without having to own them or control their presence in our lives... and have layed down a foundation for empathy for animals and responsible pet ownership... etc....

Then Red Dawg died.

I had put a few pets to sleep, but when asked, I simply told my son that they "went home". (This happened a lot with pets being adopted). With Red, however, he was our dog. He had epilepsy and was a sick doggie a lot of the time... but he was very much part of the family. My son, only 2 and a half at the time, was there as Red was put to sleep. The vet came to our home, and we sat as a family loving him as he passed away. It was emotional, but not trumatic.

We talked about life first. How it starts out (talking about pregnancy, birth), and then how rich and full it is every day. Then we talked about how life is full of change, and that change can be scary and those feelings are valid, but that there is love, god, and magic in this world that makes sure every change is just right. We talked about how these changes happen with everything; people, pets, and plants too... and that these changes have been going on forever. We are really blessed to get to be part of these changes! Part of these changes include death. Death allows our spirits to keep going - that part of us that is happy, that feels love, and makes us special and different than other people. Our bodies stop, though.

Red was going to die, but his spirit was not. Like the other dogs that came and went, Red was also "going home" - only Red was so special that he was going to go home to God. His spirit was going to go where he could play, be pet, and eat raw chicken all day long. Death was peaceful and not something to be afraid of, but that we would all be sad (and he could be sad, too) because we would miss him. One day, when we die, our spirits will get to be there with him, too!

We talked a bit about family; and that great grandparents passed all have spirits that live with god, and that Red will be with them, too.

I told my son that there are many things about our world that we just don't know, but that we feel some things with our hearts. Life is long and wonderful, and that death will happen for everyone... but we feel in our hearts that we don't have to be scared about it.

This sounds silly, but we watched Lion King... following up the conversation with a similar concept helped. They have the 'circle of life' song... and there is the sceen where the dad lion explains to the son that while they eat the gazelle, the respect them because when the lions die, their body becomes grass, which the gazelle eat. (It is explained much better, though... not "things die and get eaten, do not be afraid" heh...) Then there is the father lion in the stars still watching over, loving, and guiding the son.

When Red was put to sleep, it was peaceful and loving, and we all cried openly and hugged. There were many talks, at first daily, where I repeated the first conversation and all of those big concepts, and asked him questions about how he felt or what he thought, and let him ask me questions, too. I was so amazed that with that process, my son grasped, understood, and was comforted by his understanding of those really big and powerful concepts.

Here it is a year later, and every so often my son will say "do you miss Red Dawg?" and we get to talk again about the fun we had with him, and how Red is surely happy now because he had such a happy spirit! The same types of conversations have come up about dead butterfly in the window, an ant accidently stepped on, and themes in movies... and again I am grateful that I made myself available for those conversations... because they set up the structure for a very healthy understanding and more conversations.

Our Radar doggie is 12 ish. Guil is over 8. I am in denial that either dog will ever pass away... but... *sigh* Death is just part of life... sometimes we need to hear this stuff almost more than our children do, and as we become comfortable with the topic, it is easier for us to communicate it better to our kids.
 

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We've had this conversation too w/my DD, who is 4. Last year we had to have our dog put down and this year a cat. We also live close to my husbands grandfather who is extremely frail and doesn't look well at all. DD has been asking about it and, at first, I was at a loss. I'm not sure what I believe in and so I didn't want to misrepresent anything to her, but I also know that my parents aren't really sure what they believe and so I'm pretty sure that led to my frequent panic attacks about death and what happens afterwards during most of my childhood. So I thought alot about what I believe and I believe that we all have souls, even animals, and I don't think they just fade into the ether. I believe they join god somewhere, wherever she is. And since I don't have a better name for it, I called it heaven. So we've been talking about it whenever she has questions. And now she will occasionally, cheerily announce things like "when I'm dead someone else can have my towel". It is a bit unnerving, but I'm glad it doesn't seem to scare her, although I'm not sure she really understands it completely either.

I figure, we're totally open and relaxed about our bodies, sex, and all other aspects of life...death is just another one of those things and we ought to be consistent. KWIM?
 

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My 5yo ds went through a death-fascination period at around 3, and kept asking if I was going to die. I finally hit on the "there will always be someone to take care of you" phrase, and that was the one that finally let him move on.

Then later he asked if HE was going to die. That was a tougher one, and he cried quite a bit. But I hugged him and told him what I believe about Heaven, and he seemed to understand. Then he looked up, and said, through his tears, "In Heaven...Mom? When I'm in Heaven? Can I be a Red Power Ranger?"

 

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I am so jealous of you people with the nonchalant kids. My daughter hates getting older every birthday because she's just one step closer to the grave. She had a hard time losing teeth as well, and it was her bad luck she started losing them at age four. Death cannot ever be joked about (by a joking mama) or dealt with in any way possible that doesn't lead to massive amounts of tears. She has already told me that if anything were to happen to me or her father, she would stop eating and make her heart stop so she could die and be with us.

She's usually a pretty happy kid, so it's really this issue that makes her lose it. Gah. We have tried being reassuring, got some great books from the library, talked about the continuation of life in the Great Beyond (however that looks)etc. She lost a great-grandma that she was close to a few years ago, and she saw how sad everyone was around her, and it affected her very, very deeply to realize that our time on Earth is not forever, and those people who are gone you cannot see anymore.
 
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