Monday, 8 January 2018

Talking To My Daughter About Death

The subject of death can be a very uncomfortable thing to talk about, especially with kids. I am always interested in how other cultures and people from different backgrounds approach this subject so I thought I would share how it happens in our family.

Firstly I think culture has a huge role to play in how we view death and therefore how we discuss it with our children. For us that does not include religion so there is no talk of an afterlife or reincarnation etc. I was a small child the first time I had seen someone after they had passed away, I remember very little but my mum tells me I just drew lots of pictures of the things around me, all the people and of course the coffin. I don't ever remember being scared that time or the many times after that.

Honesty: We live and we die. I try to put it as simply for my daughter as I can. Sure we talk about what other people believe, different traditions etc. This came into play the first time my daughter was going to a funeral in a Catholic church with a closed casket which is not like most she had been to before. She has asked me what my beliefs are and I have told her but I also ask her what she thinks. I want to make it ok for her to think differently than even her own mother. That we can all believe different things and that totally cool.

I don't have all the answers. I'm not scared to tell her I don't know something. Because the truth is even mums don't know everything. I can give my opinion based on what I believe but it is just that, an opinion. Any questions my daughter has I try to answer them the best I can and there is nothing that she can not ask me.

How death happens: I have explained to my daughter the best I can what happens when someone dies. Starting with what happens in the body. The organs stop working and without a heartbeat to pump blood, functioning lungs to breath etc the body no longer works. Because the body is not working the person has died. They may look like they are sleeping but they won't wake up, their body will go cold and there will be no life. This can be the result of many things, old age, sickness, accident etc and we discuss this normally on a case by case basis. I try to keep it as simple as I can.

Anxiety around death: To feel anxious about death is something completely natural and I want my daughter to know that. It's not a bad thing to feel anxious, it's not something we need to mask or hide. It is something that everyone feels at some point of time in their lives. I want my daughter to know that emotions and feelings are a-ok and something that we can talk about it if she needs to. This came up a while ago when she was feeling sad, I asked her why she felt sad and her reply was that she didn't want our dog to die one day. I told her that it was ok to feel sad and that yes one day our dog will die and there isn't anything we can do about that but what we can do is take him for lots of walks, trips to the beach and cuddles to make his life as awesome as we can.

Remembering: Talking about someone who has died has never been something taboo in our home. We encourage our daughter to talk about family members who have passed away and we explain that it does make us sad sometimes but sadness is again another emotion that is natural and we try to model healthy and positive ways of expressing these and all other emotions.

In a tiny nut shell that is how we approach death and the emotions and questions surrounding it. It is such a huge topic and there are so many varying opinions but the most important thing for me is continue to maintain an honest, open and respectful dialogue with my child. Free from shame, taboo or judgement and freedom of expression, thoughts and ideas.

Tell me how it goes in your house?

Robin xx


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