A couple of nights ago my husband and I were conversing about aging and death. Specifically about my grandmother who passed away a few years ago. She was 91 and still very sharp mentally – she knew everything that was going on as she was dying. It was painful to watch.
My grandpa, on the other hand, who died a few years before her had dementia so by the time he died it was like we had already lost him long ago. I asked my husband if he thought it was better for your mind or your body to decline first.
Maybe we should have been a little more cautious in our conversation because our six-year-old daughter was in the room and after a few mentions of the word “death” she burst into tears and said, “I don’t want to die!”
I let my husband take the lead on this one. I thought my explanation of death would be too depressing. I don’t believe there’s anything after death. You die and that’s it – you’re gone. But how do you say that to a crying six-year-old?
I said, “Everybody dies. It’s a part of life.” My daughter then said she wants to be a ghost so she can live forever.
Unfortunately, we didn’t really knock down the ghost idea. We really had no idea what to say.
My husband added that it’s important to live your life to the fullest because we will all die one day. I definitely agreed with him on that one and I was hoping that would be my daughter’s main takeaway from the conversation.
My daughter said she’d wish upon a shooting star to be a ghost and then as she left the room she said, “Say goodbye to the real world and hello to the death world.” It was pretty creepy.
I thought I was better prepared for this.
My mother died when I was five so I had to deal with death at a very young age. I remember feeling a lot of confusion. I would ask where my mom was, and no one would answer me. My daughter deserves a better explanation than what I was given – which was no explanation.
So please help me out – what did you tell your kids about death?
Also, my husband never was able to answer my question – would it be better for your mind or your body to decline first? If you feel like answering that I would love to hear it.