One of the things we have been talking quite a bit about lately is dying.
No one has died luckily, but new interests in fighting and attacking and baddies also bring with them questions of what happens when you get inured and don’t get better.
Personally I choose to keep a somewhat open mind about what happens when you die, I would love nothing more than to imagine a heaven where we are all reunited but on your average day that often feels a little bit far-fetched. Fingers crossed though right?
Anyway whether you are a believer or a non believer one of the most popular ways to describe what happens when you die to a small fretful child is to say something along the lines of:
‘Blady bla has gone to be a star in the sky. If you ever miss them just look up and the shiniest, sparkliest one will be blady bla watching over us all’
Which sounds bloody lovely!
Except my guy ain’t buying that. Because essentially he is now thinking about a bunch of dead people floating around with a bunch of dead rocks in the great cold, expanse of nothingness that is space.
And that is not cool. So he wants the specifics.
‘Will we all be together when we die? Who will die first? Can you walk and talk when you die? Will we all live in the same house? Will my toys be there?’
His biggest fear revolves around being left behind if we die first. As such I have found myself agreeing to ridiculous things just to try and relieve the tension…
To be honest it’s not very funny because it can scare him to the point of tears. Even the topic of growing up and perhaps living apart from us is taboo and I still have to repeatedly swear that I will never leave him.
I find all these questions so very hard to answer. How honest should you be with a four year old? And even if you want to be honest, how can you be if you aren’t even sure yourself?
But whether we all become big fat nothings or whether we will end up prancing about in the clouds drinking gin in an afterlife with no hangovers (THIS PLEASE), I know for sure that we will never fully leave our guys – little pieces of our hearts will always live on inside of theirs and their children’s children and so on.
That is always a comfort.
Unless of course there is an apocalypse. In which case we are all f*cked.
**************P.S. I have a new book OUT NOW! You can nab it on Amazon here or in your lovely local bookshop :)
brilliant, as always.
This made me a tad sad and guffaw all at the same time!!! Xxx
I like “Catholic Heaven” in the Simpsons. Everyone’s wearing Mexican or Irish costume and drunk. That’s how I wanna go.
Poor little man! Very hard to explain!
…sorry to say that I did laugh out loud, maybe too loudly at the playing lego and making a suicide pact!
I am getting really similar questions from my 4 year old. He thinks people zoom off in a rocket to planet heaven, which is too far away to visit. He announced cheerily over dinner “So, who here is going to die first?” And said that if it was me or his dad he could probably just get new parents. Nice. Loving your post. Yes to clouds and gin.
My Eldest was the same and literally cried every time you mentioned him moving out one day! I had to promise repeatedly he would live with me forever! Thankfully at nearly 6 He now seems at peace that he might one day live somewhere else. And today made me smile by telling his 3 year old brother “when you’re big if you give me your phone number I can come to your house”!
Eek, glad we don’t have this yet but I will be coming to you for advice when we do! We are still trying to work out how honest to be with the baby coming out thing!
These are the conversations I am dreading the most. You seem to handle them quite well though! x
Aw, he certainly seems a lot deeper than my 4 year old.
After my mum died (cancer, so he was aware she was very ill in the hospice), he came out with the comment that she was in heaven. I had no idea who told him that given the OH isn’t religious. But that was as far as he asked. Although he does ask if she was wearing anything when she died, and asked where she went so I told him she was cremated her ashes were scattered in a pretty garden, while her soul’s around everywhere watching down and being proud of him in what he does. Thankfully that didn’t scare him which I realised it might have done when I told him.
Now he comes out with ‘Grandma’s gone to Evan’s’. Not quite right that she’s gone to his friend’s house, but quite amusing.
The OH lets him watch western films with him. No swearing, but obviously that’s a lot of people being shot. And soldiers visited his nursery on remembrance day, so he talks about them trying to look after other countries and keeping us safe from bad people. And on the films we’ve talked about how the good guys try to protect everyone from the bad guys.
Definitely a hard one because you don’t want to worry them.
Ha – our five year old wants to live with us forever too (this is better than the three year old who wants to marry my husband and have a baby with him). However, whilst Helen can’t abide the thought of ever moving out she is fine with us dying – in fact last week she told me cheerfully ‘mummy you are quite old, you will be dead soon!’
Jude has been talking about death a lot too recently-he’s just turned 4….my husband has decided just to be absolutely honest when he asks tricky questions and so when they drove past the huge graveyard in Hove, Jude asked what it was and Dave said “it’s where dead people live” so now Jude is obsessed with people being dead and them living underground with headstones above them. He got really upset on Monday as he asked if I was going to die one day…..how do you answer that?! eek-I wasn’t expecting this so soon! A few months back one of our neighbours’ dog died and when I went to say sorry and to ask if they were coping ok, the lady said to Jude “he’s gone up to heaven in the sky with the other doggies that have died” and Jude just looked up in the air, looked at me and said really loudly “WHAT??!”…..I dragged him away pretty quickly!! xxx
Ah we haven’t had this yet but I am dreading it! Especially because it was something I became really obsessed with as a child, well in actual fact as an adult too! I quite frequently have days where I become obsessed with all the wondering involved in death process. It’s the biggest unknown which is so hard and I have no idea how I am going to make Cherry feel better about it when I need someone to make me feel better about it! x
God I dreading these conversations. I am going to be crap. Help me….! ;) Jess x
When my dog died a couple of years ago I was feeling quite upset. My 4 year old granddaughter said to me, “Don’t be sad grandma, everything has to die sometime, even batteries.” Cheered me up immediately!
Urgh our dead Cat’s passing (in JUNE) still gets brought up a lot. Nursery told Buster he’s up in a cloud, but he thought that meant he could come back so we had to explain he can’t, so now he goes in to a ‘he’s up in a cloud but he CAN’T come back because there’s a big black hole and he can’t get out and he’s stuck forever and we’ll never see him again’ and then he looks really bummed out. PS I like the sound of your heaven.
i have embraced the unknowableness of death with my kids since toddlerhood with one of my go-to mommy tricks: i turn the question back on them; what do YOU think happens when someone dies? it helps me get an understanding of their thoughts and fears. I tell them no one knows what happens when you die except that you turn into dirt that helps make new things grow. that kind of makes you part of the new thing that is growing. this sciencey bit refocuses them on what is known about death. and the quasi-reincarnation idea has shown to be quite comforting. i also pull out the, “you will always feel my love for you, even when I die.”
with regard to living with us forever, we turn the question back on them, then finish up by telling them that whatever they choose is great with us; they can live with us, next door to us, or far away. we will still love them and visit them. no need to tell them otherwise; they will come to that idea on their own soon enough.
I’m so glad I read this, we have these death questions every single night at the moment. I struggle to feel confident that what I’m telling him is right.
We haven’t had this subject yet which is strange. I am not sure how to approach it really as it’s something that scares me and I am 30. ;)
Aww this made me giggle and sad. I am really not looking forward to having these conversations with Boo when she is older. It’s so difficult to know what the best way to deal with something like this is.
I remember being terrified when I was a child about dying. My mum was great and I remember her saying about how our body is like a car, and our soul is the driver and when the car/body breaks the driver/soul gets out and get another car/body… I am not sure if my mum actually believes in reincarnation but this made me feel a lot better when I was a child.
I have totally wimped out and have gone the whole heaven route. Even though I don’t believe in God. She’s at a Catholic pre school and to be honest I would rather her think that for the meantime and her Dad believes it so that’s nice. But they are wrong. I think? Oh god I just can’t think about it for too long. Makes me weep x
Only you could draw a cartoon about a suicide pact and make it funny. Genius as always. And I am with you – we’re going through similar with H at the moment. I’m dreading Easter at school. All the chat about hanging on a cross is freaking me out…
Ah, love this Katie. Especially the Lego and suicide pact. I have gone the heaven route and mine are happy to leave it at that, but are very concerned about WHEN we are going to go. I have told them that we will not go till we are 100. So now my birthday’s approaching they spend lots of time counting how many years I have left. I think this is good? xx
Ha ha love your amusing take on the whole thing! But of course, it’s all so serious in their minds. Each of these little panics and phases are an important part of growing up, I think and I’m sure will pass. Eventually. Oh please let them pass! x
I worry, that my child is too attached to me and will be too sad when I die – I know! what a twat. What am I going to do? turn into grim mother and generally hack him off, so he is pleased when I am gone!
Clearly, I have similar issues to your 4 year old, except I am much nearer death (age wise).
Anyhow, my top tip to any parent, have a pet die at around 2, they are very accepting of death at that age, ask less questions, it made it much easier when an actual person/relative died when he was 4.
I do not advocate killing a pet for the sake of parenting. Just to be clear.
Love the drinking gin in the clouds – can we come too?
Great post – this is such a big issue for children, and there really isn’t a right response. There is a book called water bugs and dragonflies. It comes from a religious belief but the idea that water bugs become dragonflies is quite helpful for some children if you don’t mind promoting the idea of an afterlife. Badgers parting gifts is lovely with a positive ending and I miss you: a first look at death is very straightforward and was very useful for my 3 year old when grandad died.
It must be so difficult explaining all of this in the ‘right’ way. I feel a bit scared reading this and have it all to come in a couple of years, eek!