Dear Sue Ellen,
My Granny passed away, we took our five-year-old daughter, Mia, to the funeral and now she is having nightmares about Granny. Last week, Mia asked her grandmother (my mom) if she was going to die. Needless to say, my Mom was upset by the question. I don’t think my daughter is old enough to deal with death and I regret taking her to the funeral. Is there a remedy for this?
There are some things in life that are inevitable. Death is one of those things. Death effects everyone. Death is also a rather taboo subject in our society. When people die in hospitals, they are mysteriously taken to some hidden place in the basement until a funeral director comes and takes the body away; it’s all very hush-hush. Why was your mother offended when Mia asked her if she was going to die? Why didn’t she laugh and admire Mia’s clever question? Is your family afraid of death? I admit, nobody likes to think about death, especially when you are raising children. My suggestion to you is be as honest with your 5 year-old as you can, within the limits of her understanding. There is no guarantee that Mia won’t ask other family members awkward death questions, so maybe you should have a conversation with her about this topic. Let her ask questions and give her honest answers. Kids reflect the grownups around them. Teach your daughter not to be afraid. Life is an epic adventure. Have you ever watched an adventure movie? Is everything all nice and sweet? No…Even Bambi’s mother died. As parents, we must prepare our kids for life…and death.
It seems to me that people of faith have a better outlook on death than non-believers. I hope your family believes in life after death and embraces heaven. It makes the conversation about death a whole lot easier. I can’t imagine explaining to a kid that when you die, it’s all over; there is nothing else out there; just blank nothingness. If you go that route be prepared to explain why the stars in the sky, and rainbows, and love, and seasons and flowers, and people have no eternal value. This would not be the time to lie to Mia, and make up some lame fairy tale about unicorns taking your Granny to lollipop land. Be real with her, unless you want her to grow up thinking make-believe is factual, or that all grownups lie, or that death is something make-believe.
Maybe grief counseling would be a good course of action. Grief counselors know how to say all kinds of things about death and grieving. They will be able to assure you that Mia is dealing with Granny’s death in a normal way for a little girl. They might also help you navigate through the loss of your Granny, and cope with the reality that we are all going to die; hopefully later than sooner. Sweet Dreams, Mia!
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Dear Sue Ellen,