Apr 16 2009

“Why do…?” Death Edition

“Mommy? Why does people and animals die?”

I froze in Cole’s doorway, having just turned out the light and said my “goodnights” and “I love yous.” I looked back at his sweet face peeking out at me from the tunnel he had created for himself in the blankets.


This was unexpected. We have been honest with Cole about what’s happening when characters die in his movies or when we lose people in our lives, but I still didn’t think that I would get this question for at least another year.

I don’t want to lie. I also don’t want to confuse or scare him about death. Death is one more part of life, a part shared by all living things. The cause may vary, but the effect is the same. There is no point in fearing it- pain, yes; death, no.

“Sometimes living things get really, really old and their bodies stop working the way that they should, and so they die. And sometimes living things get really, really sick or really, really hurt and the doctors can’t fix them and they die.”

“But you don’t have to worry about dying. You will live for a long, long time. You will have kids and your kids will have kids, and you’ll have lots of people who love you and you’ll do lots of wonderful things in your life before you ever come close to dying.”

He giggled about the idea of him having kids and grandkids. We rubbed noses, gave another hug and kiss, and I left.

Feeling very unsure.

Did I say the right thing? Did I give too much information? Not enough? Will he worry every time he’s sick? Every time he gets an owie?

He woke up twice, once because he was having a nightmare about a monster eating him and once because… I’m not really sure. His ankle was hurting him, I think. Both times he needed to hear my heart before he could go back to bed.

When I mentioned it today at school, his teacher said that he has recently been telling her that people die because their hearts stop. Apparently, this has been on his mind for a while. That made me think about how obsessed he has been with listening to our hearts. Is he checking to make sure we’re okay? That we’re not going to die and leave him?

I’m trying so hard to do the right thing; to always have the right words to say, but it’s not that easy. What do you do when your kids ask these questions? Do you have something always prepared ahead of time? Do you improvise? Do you ask for an extension on the assignment?

1 Comment

  • By Elizabeth, April 27, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

    I really like what you told Cole. It seems to me the perfect thing to say to a child about death.

Other Links to this Post

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment