How do you explain death to a child? How do you help them come to understand the diversity of human reactions to death, dying and grief? At ten, Fish is starting to experience death. One of her grandfather’s passed almost two years ago, and this winter, we lost our beloved dog Daisy. Death is natural and it happens to all of us, so I think as a parent, it is part of my job description to teach my kids how to manage death and grief. Still those aren’t easy lessons to teach.
We have an opportunity at hand. A member of my husband’s extended family passed away last week. The wake and funeral are this week and we have decided to take Fish to both events. She knew the woman, but they weren’t close. To my way of thinking this is a good way of introducing her to the rituals and diverse reactions to death in a way where she can be a slightly detached observer rather than an emotionally overwhelmed participant (Dennis used to say funerals are for the living).
Fish is fortunate to be loved and cared for by many people who are a generation a head of me (how’s THAT for diplomatic). Both of my parents are still alive as are Aunts and Uncles to whom we are close. A-Man’s Mom and her husband live right next door. The upside is that Fish has access to lots of love and benefits from their collective wisdom in her life regularly, the downside is she’s got a lot of funerals in her future.
I hope we are doing the right thing by exposing her this early. My thinking and I know this sounds morose, is that in all likelyhood, the next death we encounter will be someone much closer to us. She’s the kind of kid who does better when she knows what to expect. I don’t feel there is anything to be gained from shielding her from death. My hope is to give her the knowledge she needs to be as comfortable as possible. Death is never easy, but I hope by introducing her to the process and expectations now, She will be better prepared when she is truly overwhelmed with grief.
I hope this doesn’t sound at all disrespectful. I need to be clear, that we would be going to the wake and the funeral anyway and that there will be other children (her cousins) there. I also want to say that the deceased was a teacher, so I’m thinking she’d understand 🙂
How were you introduced to death, funerals and grief?
UPDATE: The wake was Tuesday and the funeral was yesterday. Fish was fine. A little bored at times, but she took the experience in stride. As far as funerals go, this wasn’t one of the more emotional ones I’ve been too. There were tears and there was most definitely sadness, but there was also recognition of a life well lived.
I’m glad she went. I think we made the right decision. WHEW!