Fear of Death: How to Talk About it With Your Pre-schooler, Even When You Don't Want To
June 12, 2009
Mothering is of extremes.
Last week, my daughter put on a shiny gold tutu and melted my heart as she showed off her ballet moves and her fabulous, free-style "wiggle-wiggle-pop."
Then, for a few nights going she has broken my heart when she has cried and told me she is afraid of dying.
A mother isn't supposed to imagine her child dying, nor feel helpless about her child's fear of dying.
It has happened at bedtime. She wants the light on. She never used to. She tells me she is now afraid of the dark. The sobbing begins and she tells me she doesn't want to die.
It took me by surprise the first time it happened and I fumbled through it.
You're not going to die for a very, very, very long time. It is natural to be afraid of dying. It is sad when we don't see people we love anymore. But, everything in the world dies and yes, it would be nice if it didn't. The people we love always are in our hearts, no matter what. You're only 5, no way you're going to die anytime soon.
At that last one, I nearly busted out crying too. Crush that thought, crush that thought, crush that thought, my own brain screamed.
I asked my Mothering Brain Trust (my mom's group) about this and they suggested conversations I had already had. OK, good. I'm not a total fumbler. Of course, except for one key thing: Where is she getting this? What is bringing it up? I didn't ask. I forgot. Wuh.
I looked at Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care. The good doctor said no sugar-coating it. Such an episode too, is a good opportunity to talk about family beliefs about death. I have done that. I told her we never are truly apart. Forever and ever.
She has bought none of it and I really, really want to tell her that by the time she's my age some downloadable app will be invented that will keep her wiggle-wiggle-popping until the end of days.
I have encouraged her to turn her mind toward other things when thoughts of death creep in. I told her she is stronger than her thoughts and that focusing on gratitude for the day, for our loved ones, for the cool stuff we'll do tomorrow, always helps.
She looked at me sideways.
There was no death talk at last night's tuck-in. What a relief. But, if I know my kid, the topic will be back.
Until then, this quote by Selma Faiberg in the Spock book, will help me: ''The future mental health of a child does not depend on the presence or absense of ogres in his fantasy life. It depends on the child's solution to the ogre problem.''
So tell me, how best to help her find a solution?