Depressing subject right?
But, it is part of life and as I have recently encountered (earlier than I anticipated), it is part of parenting.
If I am going to be 100% honest, on a personal level, death terrifies me. I mean, makes me hyperventilate if I give it serious thought, kind of terrifying. So, for the most part I avoid really thinking about it. I figure denial and avoidance are genuinely the best route for me to go on this one.
Ironically, I am around death on a fairly regular basis due to work and I am actually comfortable with it (to the extent that one can be comfortable with such a thing) in that setting. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t make me sad or regretful. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get scared about the reality and inevitability of it as my heart breaks for those living it. But, I can talk about it, “explain it”, touch it, support others through it… all with relative confidence. There are nights that I lay awake processing the experiences I have on the job, but for the most part it is just that, part of the job.
All of that being said, I was still caught off guard yesterday when Nora asked me if I was going to die. And later that evening, out of nowhere, she said “I don’t want you to die, because I love you so much.” It made my heart hurt.
I am not entirely sure where this recent line of questioning is coming from. (She also asked my husband the same question this afternoon completely out of the blue.) I don’t shy away from the subject necessarily. I believe in using words like death and die with my children, accompanied by developmentally appropriate explanations of what that means. When our dogs die, I will be honest with them about that as well. Nora knows that the great grandfather holding her in one of her baby pictures is dead. But, it’s not like we talk about it all the time. I certainly didn’t realize that she has been processing this in terms of us, her parents. I hate the fact that she is obviously feeling vulnerable and worried, even if she doesn’t understand what this means completely at the age of four.
And no number of hours on the job prepared me emotionally for how I felt when she asked me if I was going to die. Being a parent, especially to young children, adds a whole different dimension to my thoughts and feelings about death. I just hope that I can provide reassurance and comfort to both of my kids as they struggle with this complex subject and what it means. And I hope that I am not lying when I tell her that we both have a very long life ahead of us before we have to worry about dying.
As much as I don’t want to think about death, I really don’t want my kids to have to.