Ever since G’s fish died last month, he’s been preoccupied with the concept of life and death. It’s a topic I am not fully ready to discuss with him, yet he has started asking questions. I can see his 4 year old brain processing, trying hopefully to reach an understanding that death is not the finality it appears to be.
Today, he asked the following (out of the blue, while we were driving):
“Mommy, do all people die?” (Yes, sweetheart. They do.)
“Do people die when they get really old?” (Yes, sweetheart.)
“Mommy, how long will I last?” (This one broke my heart. A long time, G.)
“Oh, that’s right, because I’m just a kid still.”
“Can some people come back to life after they die?” (No, sweetheart, they can’t.)
“Maybe some can?” (I don’t think so, sweetheart, but I hope I’m wrong.)
The whole conversation saddened me. Partly because death is a hard topic for me, but more because I want my son to have his innocence as long as possible. It’s not that I want him to live a sheltered life, but I do want to protect him from the angst and sorrow that haunts many adults, so aware are they of their own mortality.
I don’t believe in heaven or afterlife, but I want to find a way to talk honestly about death and answer his questions in a way that is calming and not scary. Does such a way exist? This is, without a doubt, one of the bigger challenges I’ve faced as a parent. Advice welcomed.