How do you teach children about death?

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Part one – January 23, 2018

Coincidence?

This afternoon, sad, teary-eyed Sadie shared with me that her fish had died.  She had this fish since she was born. 

Children often bring up topics when you are unprepared and you least expect it.  I looked at it as an opportunity to discuss death with a four year old.  

“Everyone and every living thing dies.  It is normal to feel sad.  Love for each other never dies.  Memories live on.  It is good to share your feelings.”  The usual things we say.

Questions from Sadie included:  “Was her fish in outer space?  Was my Dad in outer space?”  She was aware that my Dad had died many years ago.  

I told Sadie that I really wasn’t sure where her fish is and where my Dad is. We talked about heaven.

Sadie wanted to see pictures of my Dad.  I opened up the file on my computer from my last visit with my Dad.  My Dad was very compromised, elderly and in ill health.

Sadie noticed the Christmas decorations in the background.  She asked whether he had died at Christmas.  I told her, no.  Some time in January.

The hair rose on my arms.

I hunted down his memorial script.  May 4, 1929 – January 23, 2007.

A sob escapes my throat.

Coincidence?

 

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Part two – May 4, 2019

Sadie is now five years old.  One year older and one year wiser.

After a long, fun-filled day,  we were waiting for Sadie’s Mom to arrive to take her home.

                    This time I received an extra long hug.  She wouldn’t let go.

Then she said “I don’t want to forget you.  I looked at her and she had tears in her eyes.

I paused.  Where did this come from?  Does she know something I don’t know?

I was taken aback.  I didn’t have time to prepare an answer.  I said what I think are appropriate things to say to a five year old.  “You won’t forget me.  I will never forget you.  You will always be in my heart.”  I was a little emotional, too, although I tried my best to hide these feelings.

I get it.  I also don’t want to forget.

Memories surface around special holidays.  This year my Dad would have turned 90 years old on his birthday.

A few of my memories: 

  • I remember how birthdays were always a big deal in our house.  We always celebrated with a Black Forest Cake.
  • I remember how my Dad valued an education. On a very limited income,  he purchased the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica.  We would actually read these books on a daily basis. 
  • I remember how he was a gadget person.  The latest knives, blenders, recording devices, projectors, movie cameras.  We also had the first black and white tv on the block.
  • I still get misty-eyed when I hear a song from the Sound of Music, the first movie I saw with my Dad.
  • Most of all I remember the family values my Dad instilled in all of his children.  To him, love was a verb.  He showed us every day how much he cared about us. He loved children and unfortunately he did not have a chance to meet his amazing great grandchildren. 

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Memories can fade.  We will forget details about our loved ones, especially grandparents that may have left us many years ago.  We may have only a hazy recollection of events.

Sadie had questions about death and about my Dad in Part 1 of this story. 

How do we teach children about death?

When we have the privilege of spending time with children, we quickly realize that we will learn far more from children than they will learn from us.

Sadie taught me that it is okay to ask the hard questions. It is okay to love someone and be afraid of losing them.  It is okay to have tears in your eyes.

Sadie taught me that sometimes the only answer you really want is a very long hug and not let go.

Epilogue

A few weeks ago I was making some notes outside the yoga studio, waiting for my class to begin.  I was debating on whether I would write and share this story.  I walked into the studio and I met a friend who was telling me about her upcoming birthday plans.  I asked her what day is her birthday?  She said, May 4th.

Today would have been my Dad’s 90th birthday, May 4th.

Coincidence?

 

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41 thoughts on “How do you teach children about death?

  1. Hi Erica – I’m visiting after reading about your blog from Donna’s Retirement Reflections blog. Children and their direct, innocent questions teach us a lot. And yes, sometimes the only answer we want is a very long hug and not let go.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Natalie, I like your words, “direct, innocent questions.” I think that is why Sadie’s comments really tugged at my heart strings. Thank you for joining in the conversation. I look forward to checking out your posts.

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  2. You seem to be especially attuned to your dad the past little while and little Sadie is like a tuning fork making it resonate even more. It sounds like you’ve been blessed twice – once with an amazing father and again with a bright and wise little granddaughter 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ok, Joanne, now you have made me cry 🙂Although, it is ok to have tears in our eyes. I didn’t think of the perspective of Sadie as the tuning fork to my subconscious thoughts and memories of my Dad. I do feel I have been blessed in many ways. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.💕

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is beautiful and I’m speechless other than to say my Dad was also born in 1929, passed to his next life in 2009, and was a fabulous human being and Father. I was so blessed to be his child. I miss him every day but he comes in my dreams.

    I love the openness and inquisitiveness of children! I loved that you juxtaposed the story of Sadie with that of your Father. So poignant.

    Susan Grace

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susan, I had debated on writing and sharing this story since I knew it would make me emotional. In writing it, I realized it is okay to be emotional and have tears in our eyes, even in front of our grandchildren. A coincidence that your Dad was born in 1929. My Dad (and possibly yours, too, Susan) faced considerable challenges growing up. I also think that our Dads belong to a generation of Fathers where love was shown as a verb. Really interesting comment on how your Dad comes to you in your dreams. You could write a story about this. Although, I realize it is likely an emotional topic for you. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.💕

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    1. Hi Winnie, I agree that I am constantly learning from my children and grandchildren. They often have an unfiltered view of the world. Thank you for reading and your lovely comment🙂

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  4. Hi E/E

    not sure if this link will come through but you might relate to this. I did write a tribute to my father on August 24, 2017 . It poured out of my heart and I believe in writing from the heart, as you do. Once again I am so glad you shared about your father and that beautiful little girl . I guess it’s your granddaughter? You must be so proud of her – she’s beautiful!

    Susan Grace

    https://swooninggrace.com/2017/08/24/tribute-to-a-father/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok, Susan, I am now a blubbering mess. I had goosebumps reading your exceptionally moving and beautiful story. Your Father was a very credible witness and like you said, his description was vivid and many senses were involved. There are many levels of awareness and my personal belief is that I keep an open mind. I love the initial photo of the 4 sisters with your Dad. I love how you described why your Father merits visitation from an angel. I encourage you to submit this story to other publications. It is a beautifully written, poignant story worth sharing. Thank you again for your kind comments.💕

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Erica, I’ve learned so much from my grandson who just turned 5 and yes a hug can help in so many situations. I lost my Dad, 38 years ago, a month before my daughter was born. He was 66. My Mum died, 35 years ago at 63 after a 10 year battle with cancer, we thought she would die before Dad and he retired to spend as much time with Mum but alas succumbed to bowel cancer 6 months later. My brother died almost 3 years ago at 65, again from cancer. I’ve learned that you just have to live life now. Yesterday was May 4 and when I arrived home there was an envelope my husband had found in the letter box. It was sent by my cousin and it was a copy of a letter my Mum wrote to her Auntie a week before my Mum & Dad were married in 1945. It was so lovely to see Mum’s handwriting and to read her thoughts. They are never really gone because the live on in our memories. Thank you for a beautiful tribute to your Dad. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sue, I am very sorry you lost many dear family members at a young age. Thank you for sharing a valuable lesson “to live life now.” I appreciate reminders. I cannot imagine how you felt receiving this special letter, a part of your Mom from 70+ years ago. You are right, they live on in our memories.

      Your grandson and my granddaughter, Sadie are the same age. Five, wise beyond their years. I know you really reinforce a healthy lifestyle and devote a large part of your week helping inspire others. Creating memories with my grandchildren is definitely motivation for me. Thank you for being part of this conversation, Sue🙂

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  6. This was a lovely read Erica and I can relate so much having lost my dad last year. It just so happens my second daughter was also born on 4 May and we celebrated her first birthday yesterday, as a mother. My first grandchild is very special and I’m enjoying creating memories with her already. Thinking of you at this time and I don’t really think anything is ever a coincidence!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Debbie, I am sorry to hear about your Dad. One year ago is recent. I don’t think grief has a timeline. Interesting how May 4th is also a special day in your family. You are inspirational Debbie and you lead a healthy lifestyle on many levels. I know part of our motivation is to stay healthy and create memories with the grandchildren. I am with you on how I don’t think anything is ever a coincidence. I lean towards synchronicity. Thank you for your kind, thoughtful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the concept of our loved ones going to outer space after they die, with all those beautiful stars and planets surrounding them. I was in San Miguel de Allende for my late mother’s 100th birthday last year and my brother and I were able to raise a toast to her as we stood on a beautiful overlook above the city. This year, on my late father’s 100th, I’ll be on Vancouver Island and will plan on an equally heartfelt tribute to his memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Janis, I actually like the outer space concept, too. Sadie often looks at life through an unfiltered lens. I learn a lot from her. I looked up San Miguel de Allende on Wikipedia just now. A beautiful location! It is interesting how many of us commemorate the birthdays of loved ones that have passed on. I hope to see you this Summer🙂

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    1. Nice to meet you, Christie. I learn a great deal from my grandchildren. I wasn’t sure where the story was going, until the end, when I realized no words and only a hug was truly the answer. Thank you for your kind comment. I look forward to reading your posts:) Erica

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  8. Hi Erica,
    Lovely post…I’m not sure I believe in coincidence any more. I’m more of a mind now that “things happen for a reason”.
    Children don’t have the filters that we put on ourselves as we grow into adulthood; their questions and emotions are real and “right there.”
    And they remind us of important truths, don’t they?
    If they could only stay little and so open…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nancy, I agree with you that “things happen for a reason.” I think my philosophy leans towards synchronicity. I know you have children in your life, too, Nancy. You were also a teacher. I think we still have that child in us, under all the filters. Thank you for joining in the conversation.

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  9. Hi, Erica. I’m married to a professional psychic, and probably the one thing she’s taught me is that there are rarely ever coincidences. That you are attuned to all that has transpired is really good — a true feather in your cap (I actually mis-wrote feather a second ago with “father” — coincidence?! ). 🙂

    Funny about encyclopedias, really. We had a set of Funk and Wagnalls, which my sisters and I endlessly pored through. I’m glad we had that experience, i.e. books. – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marty, I think that is why I always question the concept of coincidences. I don’t think it is a random event. I have too many examples in my life that have given me goosebumps. And like you say, you have learned a lot from Gorgeous.
      We have led parallel lives, Marty, liking wine and encyclopedias🙂I think the books are stored away somewhere/. I know I enjoyed reading them and referring to them for high school papers (it was a long time ago:). Thank you for your kind comment.(I moved the prior reply to a reply on my Ipad – it may be a desktop WP issue – thank you again:)

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        1. Hi Marty, Ipad plus Reader works. The reply appears at the end on MacBook and actual site ipad and MacBook. At least one place it works. Thank you for the feedback. Thank you for your patience:) Erica

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Marty, I think that is why I always question the concept of coincidences. I don’t think it is a random event. I have too many examples in my life that have given me goosebumps. And like you say, you have learned a lot from Gorgeous.

    We have led parallel lives, Marty, liking wine and encyclopedias🙂I think the books are stored away somewhere/. I know I enjoyed reading them and referring to them for high school papers (it was a long time ago:). Thank you for your kind comment.

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  11. Reading this today was strangely coincidental for me – just this morning I have been thinking about my grandparents – wondering how much I really remember about them. It’s a funny thing – time – the people you remember almost become the stories you tell about them, and then you’re not really sure where the person ends, and the story begins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jonathan, I don’t know what may prompt a memory. You are right. After a period of time, I think the lines blur a little. The stories seem to take on a life of their own. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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    1. Hi Diane, I have met you very recently. You sound like you have children in your life. I feel it is a privilege to spend time with children. Thank you for your lovely comment:) Erica

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  12. Hi Erica! My father has been gone 9 years now and I remember him sweetly every single birthday and holiday. I also learned a lot from him about so many things and like most of us bloggers, I wrote a post sharing what I learned from him as a sort of tribute. I tend to repost it on his birthday and/or father’s day to remind myself. We don’t have any children or grandchildren so we have to do our best to learn from every one we encounter. And coincidences? They are everywhere if we pay attention! Thanks for the memories. ~Kathy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathy, I agree with you that we learn from everyone we encounter. I sometimes zero in on 5 year old Sadie’s comments since there is such truth and wisdom in the simple words of children. And I have an emotional connection with her. I found and read one of your posts about your Father (five life lessons). A beautiful post. This is the second time with the last couple of weeks I have heard the quote from Kahlil Gibran. I have not heard his quotes in decades. I need to pay attention. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Kathy.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Eduarda❤︎You reminded me that my Dad would have turned 90 this year, since your Mom and my Dad were born in the same year. Thank you for your supportive comment🙂Erica

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