A significant death in our family occurred just over 2 months ago. I mentioned at the time how difficult it was to explain to my then 3 year old. Specifically, how to explain it so she'd understand but without leaving her worried that everyone she knows and loves could die at any moment. It's a delicate line to walk. I guess I think I did okay.
We mostly get to talk about it periodically. And not weepy, melancholy talk. Just general purpose discussion. To review. And sometimes clarify. For example, last month while driving in the car she asked out of the blue if we could go see the relative that had died. I was surprisingly caught off guard. Which means I took a really deep breath and tried hard not to run the car off the road. Then I explained that we couldn't see her anymore. My daughter suggested we call her on the phone. Right. So then I explained about no phone calls. In fact, I think I laid all the cards on the table and said we can't see or talk to her anymore at all. Then my daughter asked why she died. Good one. I explained again about people getting older and sometimes getting really, really sick.
But plenty of people she knows are old. For example, my husband routinely calls our perfect dog, Ike, old. The newest 4 year old has already connected the dots on that one and asked if Ike is going to die now. But too much emphasis on the getting sick part of the equation means anyone that's sick could die. I don't need a discussion about mortality every time her brother gets the sniffles. And "why do people get really sick" is like a whole big gray area unto itself. There is no good answer. They just sometimes do. But "just because" is not a popular answer with 4 years olds.
Last night was the end all beat all though. I leaned in to give her hugs and kisses at bedtime and she asked me if she's going to die. Technically, the exact quote was, "Momma, am I going to die?" Seriously, 4 years old. Killing me softly. Life is officially too complicated.