I remember when my kids were two and three years old and one of their first fish they had named “Brownie” died. The girls were so sad, especially my older daughter, Randi. She was actually sobbing. It was the first time something died. As parents of kids that age, we really couldn’t explain the concept of death. We buried the fish and decided we would let them go to the pet store and pick out a new fish. I remembered some of my friends telling me they didn’t want to go through that experience and they would replace the fish if they saw it floating on top of the water. Fish are easy to replace. Over the years, we have had other fish die and really it hasn’t been the tragedy it once was to them. The last fish that died there wasn’t a toilet bowl funeral or anything.
Over the past year several friends of our family have died, mostly older people. It is very sad, but their deaths have been expected because of illness. My girls, who are now 8 and 9, have gone with my husband and myself visiting them in the hospital or nursing home. After the third person died this year, my youngest daughter said, “Mom I don’t want to visit anymore people because after I see them they die.”
I told her it wasn’t her and people sometimes get sick and sometimes it’s better so they don’t suffer and they go to a Heaven, which is a much better place.
My girls recently had to deal with the death of a younger person, a woman we became friends with over the summer who owned the local ceramics gallery and died suddenly. She was only 49 years old. It was something I wasn’t expecting let alone the girls. We found out about it and I knew I had to tell the girls because we had been going to the gallery and I felt it was important for them to know what happened. When I told them they began to cry and started asking questions. Questions that are hard for a parent to answer like, “Why does God allow good people to die. There are so many bad people out there and she was a good person.” “Do babies go to heaven if they die?” I tried my best to answer and give them hope that when someone dies something good will come out of it and be for God’s glory. It’s just hard for anyone to think that especially when you are grieving for a loved one. Our friend had two children she left behind. I know they are missing their mom. It doesn’t matter how old you are when you lose someone close it still hurts.
I know as time goes by we will have many more deaths to deal with. I think about so many people including members in my own family who have lost their parents, grandparents, children and close friends. It’s never an easy thing to deal with. I know that we have to make sure we keep an open line of communication so our children can ask us questions and express their grief. It helps to heal the hurt. Knowing how much your child can handle when talking about death is important too.
As a parent, I want to do everything I can to make that hurt go away, sometimes we just can’t do that. Even though death isn’t a subject that many of us want to talk about it is inevitable.