I read this article this morning: What is the best way to explain Death to a child? It was a nice clear read. Something I needed. I’m learning these days that I’m going to process my mothers’ death through the eyes and experiences of my children. It will be my grief, but I am also their teacher to get them through their grief. Thomas is almost 4, he’s processing Big emotions. He sees that something is different, changing, sick about gramma. He knows. My refusing to talk about it helps him not.
One thing that struck me most about this article is the naming of death. I agree with the author, I am one of the few in my life who say “died”, not “passed away”, what does that even mean? I worked for many years in a church, death is a part of life, we did baptisms and we did funerals. Saying that someone “passed away” felt soft, and disingenuine. The person died, it’s real, death is real. Don’t try to sugar coat it.
My mother is dying, she’s not passing anywhere. and certainly not away. Her spirit will pass to the unknown but she will always live on in our hearts and minds. But then it’s so much easier to tell our children Grandma “passed away” rather than died. But we must say she died. We must use those words the real words. Just like we use the real words for body parts, we give the children power when they know the truth. And we must give them that power.
It’s nagging at my mind, what do we tell the kids, how do we tell them? I know the answer, the answer is we tell them the truth always, we don’t sugar coat it we don’t over-explain we just tell them the plain and simple truth. Grandma has Cancer and she’s not going to get better, she is going to die.
Knowing what to say and actually saying it, however, are two very different things. And to be prepared to answer all the Why? and How? questions that will follow as they slowly unravel and make sense of the information they’re getting.
So this is where I sit, unsure how to proceed. I have books recommended by the grief therapist to hopefully start the conversation. I have hope that if we can have this open and honest conversation with our children now about such a big thing as death, then we will be setting ourselves up for open and honest discussions in the future about other big things, like sex, and drugs… alas that’s a topic for another time.