death & other questions i have no answers to

What do you tell a 5 year old about death?

What do you tell a 7 year old about death?

You can understand their fear, but can you console them enough?

How do you make her accept the inevitable, and appreciate life for what it is?

How much of what she reads or sees can you censor?

And when your 7 year old starts talking about rebirth, and how she doesn’t want to be born an animal, how do you respond, and not burst out laughing?

 

The first time O was upset about ‘death’ and brought it up was when she was about 5. I thought I had handled it well… because she didn’t brood over it for long.

But yesterday a laughing, jolly little girl who was rolling around in bed with her baby sister, turned. in less than 5 minutes, to a weeping, sobbing bundle of nerves.

 

As I held her tight… she cried:

I don’t want to die. Ever.

**everybody will, but that’s not what you should think about now**

**but I knew whatever I say now wouldn’t help, so I just let her vent.**

I don’t want to be born as an animal.

**those Amar Chitra Kathas are going into storage!**

Amma, you think animals know what they are? I don’t want to be an animal, Amma. I don’t want to die.

What if a lion eats me?

**what if you are the lion kuttima?**

**That stopped her tears for a few seconds, as she thought about it**

I don’t want to be a lion. I don’t want to be ANY animal. I don’t want to die. I want to be with you.

**What happened? Did you read something or see something that upset you?**

It’s there everywhere. In Amar Chitra Kathas, Spiderman… Everywhere. Except TinTin and Pippi Longstocking.

**Ok don’t read these for a  while. Read only TinTin and Pippi.**

I am happy in the morning, but at night I start thinking about this. It scares me.

**I held her close to me and asked her to think of happy things.**

Shall I say budham saranam? **because I wanted her to have a paranormal reference, I introduced Buddha to her when she was a baby. Buddha I like, because Buddhism borders on the agnostic.**

Shall I use ammamma’s Sai Baba vibuthi?

**Yes, anything that makes you happy.**

Ok. And shall I watch TinkerBell?

**Yes, sigh!**

 

That’s the thing about prayer. Either you believe in it, or you don’t. I don’t, so I couldn’t provide that as a solution. But despite R & me, O does believe in it (and has only recently given up trying to convert me).

 

A friend wrote at length about how she doesn’t believe people can love without praying.

They can. These two things are not related you see.

For all my loving, prayer was not a solution for me.

It is for O; that and TinkerBell.

 

Anyway, it was heart-wrenching to see her sob like that. Even N stopped in her play and just watched her crazy, funny, entertaining big sister go off-character that way.

 

All that I could do was hug her. Hug her so tight, there wasn’t space between us for a silk thread to pass… so hard it made her slightly breathless… so tight it made me want to weep too… so close that I never wanted to let her go, because she is growing up just too fast. She is thinking about the next birth, when she still has so much living, loving, aching to do in this.

 

My niece’s paediatrician told my sister (agnostic like me, but less spiritual) that ‘god’ was a good parenting tool, that can be used everytime you were lost for an answer. My sister uses it effectively.

But I can’t. I just feel it’s hypocritical to use a concept on my children, that I don’t believe in or follow myself.  However, I won’t stop them from using it, having picked it up from grandparents and aunts and books… As long as I am not compelled to be a party to it. 

 Now I am digressing. But pray *hmmph!* tell me, how would you handle a sobbing child, wrought with grief over DEATH? What can you say that’s not a LIE. Even if it’s not necessarily honest.

 

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10 thoughts on “death & other questions i have no answers to

  1. B o o. says:

    Reminds me of Utbts recent post on the same subject. http://utbtkids.com/2009/09/01/death-the-circle-of-life/

    Im surprised that a 7 year old is already afraid of the concept of death. Perils of reading, huh? Sigh! Ashus current fear is a wolf eating her up thanks to the big bad wolf in those fairy tales!! I just ask her to be brave like Amma and Amma is nt scared of anything and Amma is there to protect her until shes big enough. I also ask her to think of Krishna and He will save her from anything. Maybe you can replace Krishna with Tinkerbell? 😉

    • UmmON says:

      yeah… she reads a lot. almost 8 actually. comes up with some freaky things. i do tell her that i will protect her, and she is safe with her amma & appa, but i am also torn between allowing her to be independent and mollycoddling her — perils of my reading 🙂 she loves krishna, but she is as enamoured by shiva too, and you know how his tales go. and one part of her parentage is christian, but i can’t even start on christ! how psyched would she get if i told her his end? so tinkerbell it is.

  2. Deeps says:

    Right now,V,all I want to do is hug you,yes you..I know you dont believe in those airy-hugs..so I’ll hug you when we meet next 🙂

    You’re doing great with O.and you did the most sensible thing,by telling her to think about happy things when thoughts as deep as death disturbed her.And I really admire you for not stopping O from believing in God,despite you having reservations about the same.Kudos,V! 🙂

    Know what,this conversation is going to help me a lot when dealing with Namnam in future when she will come up with her own disturbing doubts!

  3. inbavalli says:

    Now why did my kids never express fear of death when they were younger? Maybe I didn’t give them enough to read. Maybe I hadn’t told them enough about life. Maybe I did not encourage them to think and imagine. Maybe this, maybe that… *Sigh* These parenting apprehensions never cease, do they?

    As someone wise said earlier, religion is opium. It does help when you are bringing up kids. Once they are old enough they can decide whether or not to believe. About a couple of years ago I told them I doubted if God, as we know Him – with four hands, etc – really existed and they nodded sagely said they doubted it too 😀

  4. Teesu says:

    She seems more concerned with rebirth!! Amazing!!

    About prayers, I am still asking how else? Prayers are useful to get a grip on things…when you feel there’s little or no hope or control. Who the prayers are addressed to is a different matter altogether. Maybe even to the universe at large. So really, the question is how DO you get a grip?

  5. Just call me 'A' says:

    That’s really a young age to be so aware of death. usually kids her age are mainly concern with playing and death is but a fleeting thought or question. I think prayers works for those who believe and they are a comforting way to leave fear, doubt, apprehensions etc to another form. I think praying helps people to come to terms with whatever’s happening in their lives and it helps them cope with the present. It’s possible only if one believe.

  6. UmmON says:

    @teesu: yep too young
    @rest: yeah, too young. i wondered too. but not just books, i tend to explain things without any whitewash or ambiguity. so bit of a problem there. i need to tone it down. though it’s been 2 days since she has brought it up again.

  7. Anjali says:

    Hey Ummon, coming to your blog after a long time!

    This really is a tough dilemma, not an easy one to deal with, especially if voiced by a child.

    Perhaps, you could say that according to several books by several people death is just going home to God. This way you are kind of making it clear that it is not your belief but that of many others. This may allay her fears.

    Best wishes,
    Anjali

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