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Kidspeak: It's Not Always About What You Think It's About

C, age 4

When I was a kid, I never really knew anyone who died. In fact, I didn’t attend my first funeral until I was well into adulthood. (I am aware of how unusual that is).

However, my own children have had a very different experience. They have lost multiple people very close to them in just the past few years, meaning that death is something that they think about pretty often. And talk about, too.

Given the fact that my children have experienced a lot of very significant loss, I am always watching and listening closely for any signs that they are struggling with grief. Like the other night when 4 year old C brought up the subject of my own death…

She and I were in the bathroom getting ready for bed. We were both in our nightclothes -footie pajamas for C and a purple nightgown for me, when C suddenly asked in a plaintive tone, “Mama, when are you going to die?”

I immediately stopped what I was doing and got down at C’s level and tried to reassure her, “Honey, I’m not going to die for a really, really long time – not until I am sooooo old.”

She looked concerned, as she put the question to me another way.

“But someday you’ll die, right? Like when I am as big as you are?”

I regrouped, and tried to figure out how to handle this tough, tough question that my preschooler obviously had weighing heavily on her mind as a result of her personal grief. I decided to go with a straight up lie that would settle her little mind now, and that I could deal with correcting later.

“Sweetie, I don’t want you to worry about this…..Ummmmm. No, I’m not going to die, okay?

Suddenly, her look of concern changed to one of resignation.

“Well, that’s disappointing,” she said. “I thought that everybody dies someday, and that when you die, maybe I could have that nightgown you’re wearing, because I really love it.”

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