Thursday, January 3, 2008

Explaining Death

How do you explain death to a 4 year old? The father of one her friends at school died this week. I'm not sure what will be shared by the teacher, or more importantly the little 4yo mouths (where they seem to know way more than you'd think). Ariana knows about death to a small degree, but this is the first death that she can somewhat understand and while it doesn't cause her pain, it is causing pain to her friend.

The bigger question I guess is figuring out what myself and Jason think about death. Jason loathes discussing death, so it's not a topic we talk about frequently. I don't necessarily believe in the white heavens with angels singing, etc. Quite honestly, I don't know what I truly believe about it. I think there is some type of afterlife, but don't really have a picture in my head of what it consists of. I haven't spent too much time thinking about it.

I just want to be prepared in case she asks questions. Jason and I are going to talk about it tonight and decide what to say. It's finding the balance of how much to say. We'll see what she wants to know and go from there.


Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. When my dad died, the kids were too young to really understand. Since they've gotten older, they do ask questions. Here's the little things we do to help paint colorful pictures in their minds:

Each time the kids get a balloon from a store or restaurant, they go outside and send them up to Grampa. They yell out "Here you go, Grampa", or in April, they holler "Happy Birthday Grampa", as they watch the balloons fly up, up, and away. Grampa is up above the clouds in heaven watching down on them, protecting them, but collecting ALL the balloons we send him. He's flying around up in heaven (I tell Greydon that it's like Curious george in the movie). We make light of it, and totally non-threatening for the kids. They think my Dad is up in heaven with our dog Buddha and now our dead goldfish. they're all up playing, fishing, and having a great time.

When the kids ask about dying, I tell them we all die when we get old, but then are all together again up in heaven. This seems to comfor them that even if someone is taken away, we'll be together again.

Oh, and when it is storming (Greydon gets scared of thunder), we say it's Grampa bowling and he's getting a lot of strikes!
They love this idea!

I think while kids are young, have fun or make it very colorful so they are simply not afraid of such a heavy concept.

Let me know how this turns out for you...I'd be interested to hear how Ana comments about this...with her imagination and all!

Amy said...

Death is such a touchy subject, especially with children. I haven't personally had to deal with this because Gracie is still too small to understand. So unfortunately I don't have much advice for you. I hope that you are able to find your own unique way to explain this and I'm sure you will. I would love to know how you decide to handle it and how it all turns out though. Good luck.

Aunt Becky said...

We had to broach the subject with my big son when he was about 5, as my parents dog was about the be euthanized. We decided to approach it the way we approach everything with him (Ben is a very literal guy, so any beating around the bush would not compute), and tell him the truth. We explained that Athena would be going to the vet, get a shot, and then go up to Heaven (we're not religious, but it seemed to fit here).

He then decided that based upon what WE told him about Heaven, he couldn't WAIT to get there.

Hearing "I can't WAIT to go to Heaven" coming out of his mouth was a bit upsetting, but hey, I think he got the message.

Good luck, and yes, I am aware that an animal dying is nothing like having a person die.

~Denise~ said...

Becky, we are unfortunately going to have to deal with that in a few weeks as well (the death of an animal). Our neighbor's dog has cancer and they are only expecting her to make it a few more weeks. Ariana adores Autumn, and I'm not looking forward to telling her that she's sick and won't be here much longer.

I'm going to ask the teacher today what she plans on sharing, if anything.

Thanks ladies!

Anonymous said...

One more thing, no matter what you say (although important, no matter what it is), kids have wild imaginations, and come up with their own theories too.

Colton used to think Grampa got to heaven by flying on a rocket ship.

Well, it makes sense, doesn't it? ;)

Jen said...

Hugs to Ariana. One of Meghan's teachers at her day care died on New Years Day in a fire. We're talking about death in our house too.

With the girls' Alpha-1, we've talked about heaven quite a bit. Like you, I'm not sure what I feel really about what an after life is, but I've kind of painted a picture of heaven for my girls. It gives them great solace now...sort of like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus concept.

Plus, the girls' Tante's baby went to heaven recently too. We say that our soul goes up to Heaven and our bodies stay down here on earth in the ground or get creamated. We've even talked about organ donation, cuz it is an appropriate topic for us in the Alpha-1 community. Lots of their friends have new livers or lungs "installed."

Good luck, and I'm quite certain you'll have a proper explanation for her.