D For D-E-A……

It was a 4 AM call. I usually get flustered when the phone rings at that odd hour. From my life experience, I know that these calls are a signal of someone in real crisis or the news of demise. This time the call brought news of an uncle’s demise.

D For D-E-A…… How To Talk To Kids About Death?

Someone who was dear to me and my family, and had stood by us through the highs and lows of life, especially at times when it made all the difference!

The next few hours were a flurry of activities – tears, shock, grief, sadness, questions, answers – on the How? Why? When?.. , informing others in the family about the news, and of course, getting ready to visit my uncle’s residence.

When we were enroute in the car, my daughter asked “Where are we going??”

So, I said “We are going to visit grandpa”

Next question (and rightly so) “Why?”

Honestly, I did not know how to answer that question.

I was silent. Still mulling out how to respond to that

“Because grandpa has become a STAR said my mother

That response was good enough to keep her quiet… at least for the moment.

When we reached my uncle’s residence, she asked “Mummy, everyone will be sad right? Should I cry?”

I was stumped. I am yet to figure why she said that.

“Yes, everyone will be sad. But you be normal and no mischief” is what I said

“Okay” was her response

When we reached my uncle’s residence, the environment and energy was low. Tears aplenty, Hushed tones, questions and answers, hugs and sympathies….She sensed it, and tried to be her somber best for a while.

After some time, she asked “How will he become a STAR?

Again, I did not know how to answer that…

Death and Sex are probably two of the most important aspects of human existence, and yet as individuals and parents many of us (especially in India) are so uncomfortable speaking about both of them, especially to children. Going down memory lane, I can’t recall ever being told about death or what it means. I have probably also never attended a funeral in my life, until there came a time when there was no option. And I was totally unprepared to handle everything that came along. Simply because I did not understand the deeper significance of loss, how to deal with it, what it means, how to react and how it can impact and affect my life. Trust me when I say this. Coming to terms with the death of someone dear to you is not easy – in any which way. And sharing the news of demise is equally hard.

So then, how do you explain the concept of “death” to a 3 – 4 year old? As adults / parents, how many of us really understand what “death” means and its significance?

As I conclude, I leave you with a few words

“For death is but a passing phase of Life;

A change of dress, a disrobing;

A birth into the unborn again;

A commencing where we ended;

A starting where we stopped to rest;

A crossroad of Eternity;

A giving up of something, to possess all things.

The end of the unreal, the beginning of the real.”

BY Edwin Leibfreed, “The Song of the Soul”

So some time, don’t shy away from explaining to your kids that D is for D-E-A-T-H… And for that, you probably need to understand it yourself. You’ve got to start somewhere, and sometime. May be, today?

Nischala Murthy Kaushik is mother and philosopher rolled into one (the philosophical streak emerged after she became a mother – essential for balance, she believes). She is an Engineer and Management Graduate (IIMB Alumni) by Education, IT/Innovation/Marketing Professional by Employment, Google/Blog/Twitter/Social Media Lover by Era, Writer by Passion, Dreamer by Compulsion,  Student of Life by Choice, Eternal Optimist by Necessity and Chief Happiness Officer of LIFE by Realization. She blogs @ Nischala’s Space, Thoughts and Expressions AND VERVE : The Quintessence of my Life . In addition, she is also as a guest blogger in several sites of global repute; and her blogs have been featured in several Best-Of lists and on the Directory of Top Indian blogs. She tweets @nimu9 and is also listed among the 50 Indian Women to follow on Twitter.

  • SriEA

    I agree this is a very difficult topic to explain to kids..

    When my FIL expired about 2 years back, my daughter was about 1.5 years old and didn’t understand anything..but i still remember her looking very surprised at what was happening around her and breaking into sobs seeing people cry loudly..

    Now she sees his photo and doesn’t ask anything..when we do the Amavasya pooja and his death anniversary pooja, she prays silently.

  • ronita

    nicely put, so true, I have to often face this query from my 7 yr old daughter for her “nani” she has so many queries about death and abt that person who has a reflection everywhere but is not visible anywhere and the questions she asks me sometimes baffles me but yes it is very imp to explain the very reality of human lyf in subtle tone…rather than just ignoring it. Sex and death are two realities which we often push to the shelves but this should be discussed in its own way to the kids.