May 3, 2012 by Carin
Do you ever wonder how kids process the idea of death? I say the “idea” because of a recent conversation we have had with Grace about death. Grace and Myles have never had someone they are close to die, so I doubt Grace really understands what it means for someone to die and Myles is just too young to get it. But regardless, neither one of them have lost anyone close to them.
A few weekends ago, we were all sitting around the kitchen table eating breakfast, reading the paper and if you were Myles, throwing food everywhere. Brian started reading an article and soon became frustrated by what he was reading and proceeded to read me some of the article. The article was about someone who had died tragically and whatnot. Neither here or there, other than the portion of the article he was reading had “died” in it. When he said “died”, Grace started to talk about Brian’s dad Bob. Bob died almost 15 years ago this month due to a massive and sudden heart attack. She kept saying “Your father had a sick heart and died” and she said this over and over and over. At first we were taken aback by this and were trying to process what she was saying and then it just it just hit me, I started to cry. I was so shocked, stunned and sad.
Grace and Myles had been taken care of by their Gma Irene the day before. As Myles was napping, Gma and Grace were having some time together, reading books and talking about how she is Brian’s mommy, Matt is Brian’s brother and how Grandpa Bob is Brian’s father. And then I suppose they talked about Grandpa Bob and what happened to him. Brian talked to Irene about the conversation they had and she said the conversation was short and lasted only a few minutes.
This got us thinking. Grace must have been really thinking about that conversation and what it meant that Grandpa Bob had a sick heart and died. Now, we know she does not know what it means to die. When one of the fish dies, she says she wants to die and swim under our feet with the fish, so I know she doesn’t comprehend death. So I wonder what she was thinking of, what it meant and how she was processing this new information. She obviously needed to talk about it and when Brian said the word “died” it triggered her recollection of the conversation she had with Gma. We didn’t dwell on it, but stuck with what she was saying and elaborated little. We went with it and tried not to make a bigger deal out if it then it was. Did we do the right thing, probably? She is only three.
So I know that we have many conversations ahead of us about death and grandpas. But I wonder how long it will take for the information to sink in and become real. Does someone close to the kids have to die for them to really understand death and what it means to lose someone we love? It is tough to say without actually getting to that point. I don’t want my kids to have to contemplate and think about it over and over. I don’t want them to worry or fear what this “death” thing is and what it means. Not that I or anyone can make it easy, but the last thing you want is for your kids to be scared or confused.
Have you been in this situation with your kids? How did you handle it?