Friday, November 16, 2007

Talking to children about death

Last night at dinner all of a sudden my 6 year old started crying. He finally was able to get out in words what was upsetting him. He said he is afraid to die because he doesn’t want to not be able to live anymore. My heart sank. Tears came to my eyes. I wondered to myself how do I talk to my child about something that is also my greatest fear? The only death we have talked to our children about so far is of pets. Our neighbors lost a cat that we used to take care of. Next was our fish. My oldest son took these loses very hard. We discussed it with him but never gave more than what he asked for information. We never even brought up the fact that people die. We figured at one point the switch would go off in his head and he would put two and two together. Well he has.

It was a very difficult discussion to have with him. I myself went though years of therapy after I had babies because I suddenly suffered from health anxiety. After I had my first child I found myself terrified that something would happen to me. I didn’t want to leave my children. I didn’t want to die. I think everyone has these thoughts and feelings but for me the hormones raging through my body after having a baby made it worse. I guess it was a form of postpartum depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helped me through those times. Becoming a parent thoughts changed me forever and I will always teeter on the edge of letting those thoughts consume me. Everyday I have to choose to look at life instead of death. Everyday I try to not be afraid.

So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to talk to my son last night. I held him, cried with him, and told him I am afraid too. Without promising eternal life to him I tried to comfort by saying he has a very long life to live and that it is very important to focus on living and being the best person you can be now.

It was hard on me but good in a way too. Facing the dreaded topic and being forced to look it in the eye is a great way to deal with it.

I found this great article about talking to children about death. It gives a helpful breakdown to ages of children and where they typically are with their thoughts on death. I am sure there are many many wonderful resources out there.


Nuclear Mom said...

What a great post. Heartwrenching, but great. It hit me since that Leif recently said something (expressed a fear of something traumatic happening to me). It killed me and it was all I could do not to start crying myself. Then of course he moved on to making Buzz fly around his carseat.

And you are not the only one with fears of something happening. A switch went off after my kids were born, both of them, that has made me very fearful of anything happening to Hans or I, or the kids for that matter. It can be all consuming.

Thinking about you.

hk said...

go here:

*Then click on power search
*type "death" where is says subject
*Click the drop down on "type" and choose "Picture Book"
*Click Search

I hope you'll find some good stories there, even to just intersperse with light books. That might help.

Good luck, that sounds so hard. It must be so different as a parent b/c I often think if I die, but I more worry about someone else dying and me being left alone, not the other way around.