Last week, we lost our most wonderful Nan – the boys’ Great Nan (my husband’s Nan) – who I’ve been so privileged to have had in my life for the last 13 years. She was a fantastic ‘keep calm and carry on’ woman and even though she had a bloody good innings, living until 100 years old, it’s always sad saying goodbye knowing you won’t see someone again.
But how do you relay this loss to a toddler? They don’t know what death is. Do we even know what death is, where we go, or whether we have a soul that goes somewhere. Does everything just end?
I’m obviously not going to attempt to answer these questions as I’m certainly no philosopher; but I do want to ask you readers, whether you’ve ever had to convey the death of a loved one to your young children?
I have mentioned it to Arthur, but truth be told, he’s still too young to really even know that she’s gone and what that means. I wasn’t even going to tell him, but then we saw an ambulance and he said “is that going to the hospital where Nana is? Is Nana better now?”
All these worries sailed into my head; in a fleeting second I had to decide whether I should I take a chip out of his innocence and tell her that she’s died? Say she’s somewhere where she isn’t poorly anymore? Should I give an answer which I’m not sure I believe? Should I ignore his question? Should I lie?
It sounds a little crass, but all Arthur understands by the words ‘death’ or ‘died’ are the unfortunate mice which our cat, Bellatrix, brings in. I didn’t want to use that D word and him think of the mice!!!!
So what did I do?
I sort of lied.
I said, “she is better now darling, but we won’t see her anymore. She’s gone to be a star in the sky and will twinkle up there watching over us”.
Eeeeeeek was this going to bring on more questions? Was I terrible for lying as we all know what stars really are? But is it a nice lie; a lie that doesn’t bring an awareness of something which he’s too young to have to understand? A lie that makes me feel better?
Thankfully all Arthur said was “up there, with the moon?”. I said “yes darling, with the moon”… oh no, what would he ask next…
“Okay, please can I watch Fireman Sam for a little bit when we get home?”
Phew… conversation over.
So did I do the right thing? Is there a right way to deal with this? How would you have gone about it, or have you ever had to do this before?