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MANN: Broaching the subject of death with your child

Image Credit: SUBMITTED
August 09, 2018 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


A few weeks ago my toddler found a dead bird outside our home.

She was curious, as most children are, in what it was and how it got there.

The bird of course became a focal point of the day — she asked numerous times, “Is it still there?”

By evening, I was done taking about the dang bird.

I didn’t spend too much time explaining to her what was wrong with the bird, only because I don’t think she is at an age where she can fully comprehend the permanence of death.

I don’t really know what she was thinking when she saw it.

I do know I can remember a time in my own life when I believe I began to fully understand the concept of death.

I was around five years old and a great grandfather had passed. 

I really have no memories of him today, but I know at the time I was beside myself — scared to death about death.

I remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized that one day I just won’t be.

I’ve thought about that experience several times throughout my life, and I see it popping up again as my daughter starts to ask me the more difficult questions about dead birds and bugs.

It can’t all be funny conversations about wanting to open an ice cream shop when she grows up or how every woman over 50 at the beach ISN’T a grandma.

We have to have serious conversations too.

But how can I answer a question I don’t even really know the answer to?

I don’t know what happens when we die — no one does.

There are of course ideas and beliefs and theories, but from what I can tell, it’s all out of our hands — almost like we aren’t meant to know the answer to the question.

I wrote about Santa Claus last Christmas, and I posed several questions regarding whether or not adults should ‘lie’ to their children about a kind, old man living in the North Pole and the magic of Christmas.

My opinion was no harm no foul. I don’t think a belief in Santa Claus damaged me in any way, shape or form — if anything it helped instil a love for Christmas throughout my life.

But my opinion isn’t for everyone.

So what about death?

Does it become a question of age appropriateness, anxiety level of the child, or how many other struggles that child is undergoing at the time?

Or is honesty ALWAYS the best policy?

They are young and resilient and will recover from the effects of the conversations.

For now, I am simply having a conversation about a dead bird on the ground, but I know as the years pass and her logic and reason grow, it will be harder and harder to stray from the truth.

At the same time, one of the best things (in my opinion) about being a child, is the ability to wear rose-coloured glasses for as long as possible.

— Becky Mann is a 30-something, red haired, mother of two, trying to navigate this life as best she can. She enjoys talking to people and discovering their stories. Still trying to balance her personal and professional life, she juggles work and play. In her spare time Becky can be found visiting with friends, spending time with her family and saving time by reading while walking, She knows there is so much more to come and is looking forward to the continued adventure.


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