Driving home from the mall this weekend, we passed by one a large cemetery in Edmonton. Olivia was looking out the window, and she asked what it is.
Jamie paused, I paused. Not sure of how to answer the question, we hadn’t talked much about death with the girls, we took a moment.
I asked her if she remembered visiting great grandma at the place where she lived, she said yes. Then, I asked if she remembered that we told her that great grandma had died, and when we talked about how people live on our memories, when we think about them. She nodded, remembering.
I explained that when people get old and die, and they don’t need their bodies anymore, and some people choose to bury them to have a place to go to remember them. I paused, the conversation making me nervous.
As we drove, I thought some more about it. She was distracted with the next question of 400 she asks every single day, akin to every other six year old out there, and I continued to think.
I realized I was scared, of scaring her. I was scared that explaining about a cemetery was going to frighten her. There’s so few years of innocence, of unicorns and rainbows and all the good stuff, and I didn’t want to ruin that with fear. I didn’t want to ruin that and have her thinking about death, about cemeteries and about people being buried in the ground, something that I feel has the potential to be scary when you’re six years old and you don’t understand. Death is scary. It’s unknown and I don’t have the answers for her – I don’t have the answers for myself.
Immediately, I decided that it didn’t have to be scary, we weren’t going to go that route.
I didn’t want her to be frightened. I didn’t want to jar her with the things that she knows to be true, the good in the world, the good in her heart – if I don’t have to. I want to keep her all warm and snuggled inside the cozy blanket of our family, the goodness that exists there, the love, the warmth and the happy.
Where do you draw the line between explaining and answering question, with topics that you think might have the ability to frighten them? Do you sugar coat? This time around, I tackled it in the usual manner, giving a quick fact – and redirecting.
I continued on, and told her that we remember a person who died, the things they did, and the love we shared; Telling Olivia a funny story about the time that great grandma was having dinner with us, when she called dad a ‘bad word’. She was immediately intrigued by the ‘bad word’ that she called him.
She giggled for five minutes when I told her it was ‘idiot’. It wasn’t. I giggled too, reliving the moment in my own mind.