Because They Love You: On Talking to Kids About Death

It should be easier to tell a child about death.

They’re unclouded by past circumstance, after all, unable to completely grasp anything so absolute.

And that is what makes it so hard.

Their eyes grow wide where an adults’ would brim with tears.

They ask questions. “Why Mommy?”

And you can’t answer.

I can’t answer.

It’s been one of those years. We all have them – years filled with heartache. Some are worse than others.
But you don’t tell them that. There are no scales of pain for children, no view of proportion.

Stirring their oatmeal in the wrong direction can send them into hysterics while a bump on the noggin at the playground is ignored in favor of jumping in the sandbox.

And so it can be with death. Sometimes they shrug and head outside to play.

Sometimes they cuddle up to the ones they know need them most, wrap their little arms around you and just squeeze.

It’s when they climb out of your lap, and fix their eyes on you, that you wipe furiously at your own and try to pretend it’s all going to be alright.

Because it is, isn’t it? They believe it will be.

They tell you to fix it, and even when you say you can’t, they insist. “Yes, you can. Yes, Mommy, yes.”
I can’t.

I can’t tell her that a man who died last week in North Branch, who she followed around at times like a little lost puppy, will not be coming back.

And I can’t tell her why.

So what can I do? I can tell his family that a little girl adored him. That his kindness and goodness made him her buddy, his heart her pal.

And when it came time to tell a little girl about death, she just wanted him back.

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Image via Tomas Sobek/Flickr


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  2. What a raw, heart-wrenching, truthful commentary. It is never easy to experience. But it is the cirlce of life. It is the reason it is so important to embrace and celebrate each relationship.

  3. Hopefully she will have memories of how much fun she had with Rooster. Those why’s get you everytime.

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