I’ve had this post in my head for a while but have been finding it hard to find the right words. Sausage, just recently, has been talking about dying. During her games with her dollies, she’ll talk about them dying from one illness or another (mostly due to starvation, if I remember rightly…) and she starts random conversations about people passing away.
When my step mum died last year, I thought I did a really good job of hiding my grief, but looking back I know I failed. She saw me crying, utterly bereft, in denial, angry – the full set of emotions that goes with losing a loved one. Maybe this has contributed to her sudden awareness of mortality.
Then there’s Disney.
I wrote this post not long after I started my blog, but due to that wonderful parental pressure that kids know how to exert, Sausage now watches a small selection of Disney films, with Lilo and Stitch being her absolute fave. In fact, there are FOUR Lilo and Stitch films and a TV series, all of which she now has. In Lilo and Stitch 2 (for those of you who haven’t seen it…) Stitch’s batteries run out at the end and everyone thinks he’s dead. Sausage fixates on this part of the film and even though he comes back to life, often says repeatedly “Stitch is dead, isn’t he Mummy?”.
I always said that I wanted to protect Sausage’s innocence as much as I possibly could, but there comes a time in a child’s life when they start to ask questions.
“Daddy, why don’t you have your cat Mitzy anymore?”
“Mummy, why don’t we see Lorraine anymore?”
She also became aware of the concept after seeing charity adverts on television. She asked her Daddy why the little girl in the Water Aid advert looked so sad and Husband explained that she and lots of other kids didn’t have any clean water to drink, to which Sausage responded that she wanted to give her Christmas money to the little girl to help her. Husband made a donation on Sausage’s behalf (though not out of her Christmas money) and he and I were bursting with pride at our child’s kindness.
And how do we answer those questions without touching on the subject of death? To an extent I feel like I’ve failed her, should have given her a more imaginative answer and skirted around the issue, but at the same time, I don’t condone lying to kids when the truth will do. I think I just have to come to terms with the fact that she’s a bright kid and it was time for her to learn certain facts of life. She’s only three and a half, though. Seems horribly young.
Do you know when your kids became aware of death and dying? Did they hear about it from you and how did you handle the subject?