Wednesday, November 28, 2012

explaining death to a 4 year old

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” 
-Mae West

Today we are going to the viewing of Jack's Great Great Uncle Phil.

Last night, I wanted to prepare Jack because it will be his first time.  I thought talking to him before bed would be good so it would sink in and he could ask all the questions that came to him within the next 24 hours.

But I soon realized bedtime is not the time to explain death. 

I underestimated his ability to comprehend what it was, and at the same time he didn't quite grasp it all.

It started like this... "Jack I need to talk to you.  Tomorrow we're going to a viewing.  A viewing is a place you go after someone dies to say goodbye.  Someone we know died last night, and he will be there." 

I described how it would look like Phil was sleeping.

He asked what Phil's full name was, and was upset I didn't know his middle name.   

Jack asked if he would be breathing.  He asked if he could open his eyes. 

I answered him truthfully, but without lots of details. 

I talked about where he was now, in Heaven with people he loves... which made Jack happy, but when I told him he might see that some people are sad at the viewing, he started to cry. 

He asked me if he would die one day, and if people would come to his viewing and cry and be sad.

Woa.... I was so not ready for that one.  That was a monster wave that made us both cry.  

I told him hopefully I would die before him, which didn't make him feel any better and he said he didn't want me to die.

This conversation was so deep and emotional and on a whole different level than I thought it would be.

He asked me why we die, and I told him that we're here to learn and that we will all die someday, but when we do we'll be with God and Jesus and family.  He added, "And Santa?"  

The idea of Heaven, angels and wings made him happy again.  

He asked about blood and pain.  
I told him a lot of people die in their sleep and it's like waking up from a dream. 

Then he said to me with a smile, "I'm not going to die someday, you're just kidding right?"  

The part where he wanted me to say everything was just a joke.  I wish it was.

I just stayed silent and told him he didn't need to worry about dying. 

I waited a minute and then changed the subject.

We sang a few songs and told a few stories, and after our conversation I didn't want him going to bed thinking about death alone, so I cuddled with him until he fell asleep.  I woke up several hours later and went to my own bed.

Growing up is hard.

Another part of parenting that makes me question if I handled things right.  But there is no "right"...

Phil & his wife Lou
I took this photo last year when all their children were home.  
It's my favorite.

*Update*
At the viewing, Phil's oldest son told me they are using the photo below for their headstone.
I have never been so honored.

1 comment:

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of your great uncle - such a sweet photo. You are such an awesome mother, Olivia. I imagine those questions were a lot to take in for the both of you. He is one smart boy. And I love that he asked about Santa. :)
    Big hugs. Xoxo
    Maria

    ReplyDelete

"Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime." -Dale Carnegie

There was an error in this gadget
Blogging tips