Talking to Children about Death!
From the time Avi’s parents, Sheetal and Vikram, brought Avi home from the hospital as a newborn, Moby never left his side. Moby was their beloved pet Golden Retriever. Moby was quite protective of Avi and acted as the elder brother. Avi, too, returned the love in equal dose.
Avi was ten years old now and Moby was no longer the active and playful dog he once was. Age was finally catching up with him and he kept falling ill often. Avi was at his grandmother’s when one day, Sheetal found Moby in his bed, not moving. She knew immediately that Moby was gone. And gone with him were years and years of unadulterated love. Sheetal and Vikram kissed Moby one last time and bid him a tearful farewell.
Vikram had to pick Avi up the next day and he dreaded breaking the news to him.
“Vikram, we have to tell Avi the truth but in the gentlest way possible,” Sheetal reassured him.
On the ride back home, Vikram broached the subject with Avi.
“Avi, I have to tell you something. Moby is no longer with us.”
“What do you mean, Papa? Has he run away and not going to come back?”
“No Avi. Moby had been unwell for quite some time and he couldn’t fight the disease any longer. He has died. I am so sorry.”
Avi went quiet. He didn’t quite understand how to handle the information. Vikram sensed his confusion.
“Darling, do you remember the yellow butterfly we found on our rose plant? How we saw it fluttering every day and then one day, we found it lying on the ground and not moving? It is the same with all living creatures. They live for a definite time and when they grow old or get very sick, they die. Death means when the creature can no longer do things like breathing, eating, or moving.”
“Papa, now I understand what happened to Moby. He has completed his life. I am going to miss him terribly. He was my best friend.”
Vikram was surprised at how well Avi processed the news and hugged him tightly.
We, as parents, often avoid someone’s passing with the assumption that children wouldn’t understand the significance of death. Rather than confusing their young minds with statements such as “He has gone away for a while”, “She is sleeping” or “He is resting”, we could relate the information with something they have seen. We could tell them about the flowers wilting or an insect that they found on the ground. Children are more receptive to our emotional upheavals and body language than we think.
Reassuring the kids that you aren’t going to die in a long time and you’ll be there to love and take of them, helps them to discuss their emotions openly and avoid confusion. The discussion of death is not to be avoided but handled with care.
About the author
Shweta is the Strategic Designer & Editor for News Shuttle. Writing has been a passion with her and she hopes that this endeavour will help kids learn and have fun at the same time.
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Very well written. Kids unexpectedly deal some issues way better than we think they ever will! 🙂
Absolutely agree, thanks for sharing your views.