It is hard to deal with death even when your a grown-up. So what about dealing with death when you are a child?
I only have one grandparent left. My grandpa is 88 years old. For the past few months his health has been declining really fast. My children love their great-grandpa really much. They know, for a fact, he won’t still be alive for long. But losing him will certainly affect them a lot. Explaining them his death so they can learn to live with it, is pretty hard in itself and a great responsibility.
UPDATE: By the time I finished writing this post, my grand-father had passed away in his sleep. Rest in peace.
Where Is Paradise?
Whatever believes you grew up in, your parents have always told you your are going “somewhere” once you are dead. But being a child, it is hard to figure out if those believes are real or just a man-made story created to explain something unexplainable. Nobody knows for sure what is going on once we leave this world. But we all need to believe in something bigger, in an after-life kind of paradise where we meet our loved ones that passed before us.
A Special Place
That special place doesn’t even have to be related to any god. It just have to filled the whole left in your heart with the departure of the person you cherish.
In our family we call this special place “becoming a star”.
When I was growing up, I remembered we used to call it paradise. But where is it? How can you find this paradise? It is such an abstract concept.
Explaining Death to A Toddler
When our first kid was faced to death for the first time, she was two. We had to come up with some explanation why her great-grandma was not part of her everyday life any longer. For us it became “when you are dead, you are becoming a star”. We thought it was a more “visual” concept for a toddler. This way, it was something our daughter could look up at night, explaining her, in a way, where her great-grandma was from now on.
When Your Are Dead You Become A Star
My First Time Dealing With Death
I remembered when I was eleven years old, I lost someone for the first time. My grandpa died from an awful cancer. I had never known how losing someone felt like before that day. And I remembered one day I was hoping for something and started talking to my grandpa, looking at the sky. Being a child myself, I didn’t know where he went after his death but I started believing he was watching on us from somewhere. From that day, each time I miss a deceased one, I look at the sky and send a kiss. With years, I started doing it more at night, when the first stars show up in the sky.
How Our Own Family Believes Became Our Own Tradition
So, from our point of view, and mostly from my children’s point of view, my grand-mothers are stars; Doubert, our previous cat, is a star; my grand-father is a star; and sooner than later, my other grand-father will become a star too.
Telling Your Kids Someone They Love Passed Away
I know, for a fact, than in a couple of days, or a few weeks at most, I will have to tell my children that their great-grand-father had passed away. Will I be ready for this? No, I will never be ready for this. Mostly, I know it will affect them greatly. They are aware he is sick and old and everything, but in their little kid’s hearts I know they hope this day will never come. I know it will break their little hearts and I am really sad just thinking about this day. I am grateful that they came to know him very well and for that much time. But explaining death to young kids is always tough. It is so abstract, so unreal, so mysterious. Death is part of life cycle. But it doesn’t mean it has to be welcomed.
I have an Asperger’s child who suffers from anxiety, another one who has great anxiety issues and struggles with sadness and emotions, and a third one who told us just yesterday that she is always afraid her family members will die. Each of them will deal with death differently. What scare me the most, is being able to deal with each of their needs individually; to not screw this up for them. So that in the future, they will still be able to deal with death the best way they can.
Children Can Be Amazing Dealing With Hard Situations
We often forget that children are amazing when dealing with complicated or hard scenarios. I know that whatever happens, as long that me and my husband are beside them, everything will turn out okay. It might not be easy and we might all cry a lot, but at the end, we will all be stronger and grateful for the time we spend with my grandpa.
So by the end of next month, just after sunset, when the stars will start showing up in the night sky, I will have someone else to send kisses too. And my children will remember all the good memories they shared over the past years will their last great-grand-parent who was with them in this world.
I love you grandpa!
If you need help explaining death to your kids, here is a link that can help you.