Death isn’t a conversation that comes easily to anyone.
My Godmother, whom I was very close to, died recently. As a result, for the first time ever, I was confronted with explaining death to my four-year-old.
He was lucky enough to meet his great grandparents, both of whom died two years ago. He was young enough to appreciate them but also didn’t fully realise when they were gone. They simply faded away from his day to day life.
A few days after my godmother’s death, my son asked me, “daddy, what does dead mean?”
We had purposefully avoided discussing her death in front of him, but as is the way with toddlers, it found its way to him like that chocolate bar you were sure you’d hidden well enough.
As we are not a religious family, I couldn’t use “people go to heaven” as an answer, though I often wonder if that is any easier, or whether it even softens the blow.
My godmother’s death came as a shock, and due to his young age, I hadn’t even considered what I would say to him when faced with the question. My way of parenting is to be as open, honest and upfront with him about all aspects of life (and now death).
In the seconds it took me to answer, a few questions raced through my mind:
“What if this becomes something of an obsession for him?”
“What if he wants to know more?”
“What if he starts to remember all the people already missing from his young life?”
And in that moment, it hit me… What do we as adults truly understand about death?
And so my answer was this:
“When people get old, they’re no longer around, to make room for all the babies coming into the world.”
It might not have been the best of answers, but it made sense to me, and more importantly, it made sense to him
Now, nobody mention taxes around him.