‘Mama, are you going to die?’…. lessons in death.

May 27, 2014
the fam halloween

Could dress ups like these be responsible for his fascination with death??? My bad.

D Man is slightly obsessed with dying at the moment, and when I say slightly I’m playing it down.

Every time his little voice pipes up with another question my mind starts racing because I really don’t know if I’m handling it properly. I mean, I’m being honest about it. That’s what you do with kids, right?


I’m being frank and matter of fact, but whilst not sugar coating it exactly, I’m definitely not discussing childhood illnesses that may cause imminent death, so we’re working with honesty, to a point.

It’s curly questions like these that really make me realise my boy is no longer a baby. His little synapses are processing stuff and putting stuff together and asking some big questions…. ones I’m not totally prepped for. I think when it comes time for sex and wanking conversations, I’ll be all over it, but something about this death chat freaks me a bit. I’m not afraid of death myself, but D Man is getting upset by all of his questions.

I’m really not certain where his new curiosity has sprung from but a typical conversation goes something like this.

‘Mama, am I going to die?’

‘Yes, honey, everyone dies one day, but I hope you’re not going to die for a really long time.’

‘Are you going to die?’

‘I am, but I’m not planning on it until I’m older than Grandpapa.’

(Sorry Dad, somehow you became the benchmark for old age. His great grandparents are simply too old to fathom.)

Often around this mark of the conversation he will start to keen a little, or whimper.

‘I don’t want you to die.’

This is where it gets tricky……because I’m not trained for this conversation, and because I HAVE NO TACT. This part is the part where my mouth goes dry, and my mind races to find the right words to explain that death is a part of life. It’s inevitable, and although it’s sad to lose someone…..then breaking my revery he cries –

‘I don’t want Kiki to die!!!’

I try to gently explain the whole Circle of Life business but we’re not quite up to wrapping our heads around the idea ; we seem to be stuck on the death part.

The biggest thing kids have a hard time understanding, apparently, is the permanence of death. That you no longer eat, or sleep, or breathe. I feel like he gets that though, hence the fear he has of death.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he just asked once or twice, but we’re covering the same territory probably twice a day at the moment. I thought I would turn to my trusty parenting encyclopaedia The Internet, but the first site I came across suggested a good way to broach the subject is when a family pet dies.

Now, I admit wholeheartedly that Mister Pants can be an utter jerk but I don’t think killing him and holding a kitty funeral is the solution here… nor is buying a  stupid fish tank with stupid fish that I’ll be stuck cleaning once a week until I do actually kill the unfortunate creatures who inhabit it.

Surely, that’s more of a lesson in murder than mortality?

Most posts are about teaching a child to cope with grief after loss, or expressing my own sadness at losing a loved one. We haven’t actually lost a loved one, nor a pet, so it’s not like death has knocked on our door with it’s cold and brittle fingers. This inquisitiveness has come out of the blue.

It’s totally normal, I realise, and even covering the same ground many times over is fine, he’s just processing. Apparently I should be encouraging further discussion about it to make sure we’ve really got everything covered off in his brain but I’m just kinda sitting with it and letting him drive this one.

I figure as long as he doesn’t start asking me about my will, I won’t worry that he’s asking about my death.


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  • Reply Nina May 27, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Great post thank you!
    My 4 yo grandson watched his beloved ‘Poppy’ become ill and eventually pass away last year. In his beautiful little mind and body he processed what he was seeing with amazing clarity. Like you, we didn’t sugar-coat it and tried to be as honest as possible.
    He brings up random conversations about my husband and remembers so much. A couple of weeks ago he came out with, “I would go and get Poppy but I don’t know how to drive and i don’t have a car”.
    It floored me and is a constant reminder to the extent of what kids think about. Like you wrote, we also let him ‘take the drivers seat’ when discussions come up.
    You just have to go with what feels right for you 🙂

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys May 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Bless him, what a magical thing to say. I’m so sorry about your loss, but I hope you can continue to share happy memories with your grandson and keep your husband’s memory alive.
      You really do need to trust your instinctive on these matters…. it’s all unchartered territory! xxx

  • Reply Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me May 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

    My daughter often say she doesn’t want me to die and I tell her I won’t for a LONG, long, long, long time and so don’t to worry. And then I ask her what else is concerning her and she tells me and the subject is sufficiently changed but her fears not dismissed, just avoided until she has the emotional maturity to consider my answer.

  • Reply claireyhewitt01 May 27, 2014 at 9:45 am

    My children know death first hand after an awful 18 months where my Dad died, then three of my aunts (all my Mum’s sisters) their cousin’s nana (who we shared our Christmas’ with) and then finished with the other Poppy’s dog.

    They often have questions about death and why and what happens and I find my answers change quite a bit depending on the child and the age. One is very imaginative and happy to discuss heaven and stars. One is not, she quickly told me that stars are actually great balls of fire so we do NOT want Poppy to be burning on a star.

    It’s tricky, most adults can’t understand death.

    PS Just popped over from My Life on Venus, where Sam added you in her favourites list.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys May 28, 2014 at 6:54 am

      Did she? What a doll. I’ll pop over and thank her.
      Death is tricky and the whole ‘what happens’ is such a personal thing. Whether you’re religious, spiritual or final about the whole thing what you say now may shape your children’s belief of the hereafter hereafter. Big job, man!!!

  • Reply San May 27, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Try Googling “The Rainbow Bridge”. It’s a Norse poem actually about the passing of animals, but I think it may help, (naturally you be the judge of that hunny) but I reckon it’s the concept of “gone forever” that children find hard to grasp or deal with, and as none of us know for certain what’s on the other side, is there really any harm in believing that this life isn’t all there is??? My headstone’s going to read “TBC….” :o)

  • Reply workingmommawithababy May 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    It’s interesting that you haven’t found more posts on teaching children about death. So funny that everyone assumes you’ll have a pet die before a child will think of death as a tangible event. Keep us updated on this–it’ll help those of us who aren’t far behind on having to deal with this kid question ourselves! Good luck and give your little one lots of hugs. 🙂

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys May 28, 2014 at 6:56 am

      To be honest, I didn’t search extensively. There are probably a million writings on the matter but I stopped after the first two as I have the attention spam of a can of baked beans.
      Hugs are a given. For mostly selfish reasons.

  • Reply mwitasblog May 27, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    My son always wanted to know how he’d die (my brain got stuck and I never seemed to have the right answer)… but lately he stopped asking.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys May 28, 2014 at 6:57 am

      How he’d die??? Man, that’s a tricky one!!! My brain would totally get stuck on that….

      • Reply mwitasblog May 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm

        Well, he’s growing up and my sole prayer now, however he dies, is that he dies IN THE LORD!

  • Reply Sonia Life Love Hiccups May 28, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    We went through this hun and questions like can I have a torch in the box cause it will be dark and can I take crayons and paper so I dont get bored, used to kill me. The devastation over Darth Vader dying started a month of “I don’t want Dad to die” which was awful. I have no advice really except that I think you have handles it well – honest and to the point and that is all we can do because the reality is people do die. although I too hope you and I are older than Grandpa 😉 xx

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