Phew - a profound day today. What started as a very simple conversation about Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day where you are in the United States) got heavy very fast. My husband and I weren't prepared for the depth of our young son’s questions and understanding about death, burial, and his ultimate realization that one day, he too will die. Many many questions, and many tears. I don't remember having this epiphany as a child, and certainly not at (almost) 4 years old. Do you have suggestions of books or other resources to discuss death with children? I’m not looking for a text from a particular religious perspective. Rather, I’m looking for something that engages with the questions and the struggles which we all have.
- Wondering About Loss
Dear Wondering About Loss:
Let me start by saying that you and your husband did a great job of responding to your son. I don't think that there is better advice than to do what you are already doing — that is to say, tell the truth, name the loss and the grief that is part of finitude, and give yourself permission to say "I don't know" when you really don't know.
And in that spirit: I don’t know of any texts specifically aimed encountering death with children which I would recommend to you, WAL. The ones that I have read are sentimental (and sometimes even saccharine) exercises in smoothing over the pain and unanswerable questions which are part of death. In short, they are exactly the kind of books that you aren’t looking for.
I will recommend one book geared at adults to you. While Kenneth R. Mitchell and Herbert Anderson’s classic text, “All Our Losses, All Our Griefs,” does not specifically speak to death as understood by the very young, it does do an absolutely excellent job of naming what loss and grief is like for all of us. My own experience has been that, because Mitchell and Anderson improved my understanding and deepened my vocabulary around dying, I am better equipped to talk about it with my children.
Finally, WAL, I’m going to take this opportunity to engage in a little crowdsourcing. FKB readers: is there a resource for discussing death with a child which you would recommend? Post your suggestions in the comments, below. I’d be grateful for your wisdom.
Do you have a question about ethical decision making, living a faithful life or theology? Leave a comment below or send your question for Rev. Elfert to firstname.lastname@example.org.