If there was one thing that I dreaded to talk about with my daughter, it was ‘Death’. I don’t know why, but I was never comfortable speaking about it. I remember she asked about death when she was five years old. It was immediately after her friend’s grandfather’s death. I brushed aside the topic by saying the usual things, “He has gone away to God”, “He has entered into a deep sleep” or “He has become a star”. Though I knew she wasn’t convinced with the answers, I kept repeating the same, every time she brought this topic up.
I asked other parents about explaining death to children and realized that no one spoke about death in front of children and if they asked a lot of questions, the answers were somewhat similar to what I said. I was content as I was doing the ‘right’ thing. But then things took a different turn when recently one of our relatives expired.
“Why do people die?”
“Why do some people die soon and why some die after 80 years?”
“Will you also die?”
“Who will take care of me if you die?”
“When will I die?”
“What happens when we die?”
“Do we become ghosts?”
These were just some of the questions she kept asking me every day. To say I was tired of her questions would be an understatement. I remember one day when I had locked the bedroom door and didn’t open it for a long time, she cried thinking that I died.
Finally after giving it much thought, I decided to break the silence and speak up about death. This is what I told her.
“Have you seen the flowers in our garden, every morning a flower blooms and after two or three days the flower withers away. There is no particular time, some flowers keep smiling till 4 or 5 days, but some wither away immediately. Each flower is born with a unique smell and till the time it smiles, it keeps spreading its fragrance. Just like that everyone who is born on earth dies one day. There is a heart that beats in our body and as long as it beats and we keep breathing, we are alive. The moment it stops, we die. There is no way we can tell how many years we will live, but we can enjoy, play, learn, love and care till we are alive. Even if someone dies, they stay in our thoughts and memories forever. So think about all the wonderful things you can do today, at this moment.”
My daughter looked satisfied with this conversation and I felt relieved that I finally spoke about something that I was uncomfortable about. This may not be the perfect answer, but this is what I managed to say.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on this. Has your child asked you such questions? If yes, how have you handled them? What answers did you give them? I look forward to your inputs.
Gayatri Aptekar is a freelance storyteller, writer, blogger and a mother to her eight year old daughter. She believes in the power of Dreams. She quit her nine year corporate career to follow her passion. A Master Practitioner of NLP, she works with children to accelerate their learning, getting them into peak performance states and coaching them to deal with the everyday challenges.
When she is not counseling students, individuals or couples, she can be found at her blog, “Outside the Kitchen Window” wielding her magical wand to pen her thoughts, poems, fictitious stories, mouth-tingling recipes and book reviews. Apart from these creative adventures, she enjoys reading, dancing, cooking and photography.