Processing Death as a Child

I think one death is too much. Two deaths in less than a month has been far too much for both me and FireDad and we’re adults. Or at least we portray adults on this blog. At any rate, I’ve been worried about how all of this loss has been affecting the boys. LittleBrother has the grace of not really understanding. Being just barely over the age of two, he only understands that sometimes Mommy and Daddy are sad and that he’s seen a lot of his relatives in the past month.

BigBrother, on the other hand, is a different story.

At four, he’s understanding much more of what is going on that some people want to give young children credit. When I explained last Tuesday that Daddy, Mommy and Nana were sad because Uncle died, he brought up the fact that Big Papau died. We then launched into a lengthy discussion over our grilled cheese sandwiches about death, Heaven and other concepts that still confuse me. Sometimes it stings, how bluntly he talks about it.

“Uncle died. Like Big Papau is dead. They’re both dead.”

As adults, we tiptoe around the concept. We use words and phrases that are supposed to somehow make it seem less in-your-face, less real. He passed away. He’s no longer with us. He’s gone on to Heaven. He’s no longer suffering. No, for BigBrother, the two men who have left us are simply dead. No sugar coating. No easing into the concept. Just dead. He doesn’t cringe when he says it, like I do. His stomach doesn’t churn like mine does. He accepts it. Oh, to be four years old.

At the funeral on Friday, we waited our turn to pay our last respects while the rest of the non-related mourners made their way to the casket, down the family line and out the door to their waiting cars. Our turn arrived and I walked toward the casket with my mother-in-law, sister-and-brother-in-law, husband and two sons. I stood back. My grief from last month still so raw, I didn’t want to push myself. BigBrother walked right up to the casket, put his hands on the side and peered at Uncle. There was no fear of seeing someone you love looking like someone else in a big box. There was no fear of death at all, like the rest of us have when faced with the death of a loved one. His acceptance is somewhat inspiring. But still very heartbreaking.


I debated not taking them to Uncle’s funeral. They’re kind of noisy, being my children. Sitting still is not their strongest suit. But, after doing some reading and soul searching, I decided that they would come with us, just as they came with us to Big Papau’s funeral. Why? I found this quote.

If the child is old enough to walk, let them walk with you into the funeral home. If not old enough to walk, carry them with you.

Point taken.

In the week or so after Big Papau’s funeral, BigBrother would ask me if I was still sad. One day he told me to try harder. I love being challenged by my children. I also love their innocence, their acceptance of life… and death. I wish I could be more like them in these ways. I’m working on not being sad. It would help if I could have one full month off. Right? Someone work on that one, please.

Because, while the flowers are pretty, they’re killing my monthly budget. And, you know, grief is emotionally taxing when you’re not four. So, really, one month off, at the very least, okay? Okay.


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11 Replies to “Processing Death as a Child”

    1. On the one hand, I’m kind of glad we don’t yet have pets. On the other hand, I think it’s also a valuable teaching tool. Not that I’d kill off a pet we’d get but you know what I mean!

  1. You and your family have had such a rough month. *hugs* Ari and Joey ask about death alot, though we have never experienced the death of a family member. Only pets, and that was hard enough.

    1. Yes. Now time for some relaxation, don’t you think? I’m spent! I think this is an age where kids DO ask about death and talk about it, however bluntly, but dang, it hurts a bit sometimes.

  2. I sure hope you get your month off. Grief is so overwhelming, especially when the hard things come in groups like these two deaths have for you. I think you were wise to take your boys to the funerals – I have taken my children to funerals and I find kids take on loss can be very inspiring actually – they can be so full of faith and a belief that better things wait after death.

    Take care of yourself.
    .-= Laurie´s last blog ..Trust and the School Board Trustees =-.

    1. Having the kids AT the funerals was a blessing in itself. LittleBrother put his hand on my face and kissed me when I was crying and BigBrother did the same for Nana. Kids. They’re so awesome.

  3. Sigh. I am so sorry that you are having to go through all this so close together. I am hoping the good memories bring you comfort and the kids do as well. Hang in there.
    .-= Tarrant´s last blog ..20 for 20 =-.

  4. I am so, so sorry about all the loss. And I sympathize – last year, we lost my maternal Aunt, my paternal step-Grandpa and my Grandma, and a dear friend (his death to suicide). Our son went to his first funeral at 7 weeks. He went to them all, save the one for our friend because we had a 10 hour round-trip drive in 36 hours and spotty childcare when there. He was such a Godsend during those times.

    Kudos to you for your honestly and for exposing the children to this sad but necessary side of life. My own father’s first experience with a funeral was HIS OWN FATHER’S (can you even imagine?) so he made sure that I had some exposure as a child.
    .-= Sarah in Ottawa´s last blog ..Lent begins =-.

  5. My son is five and a half and we recently had to go to the funeral of a Great Aunt of my husband’s. Seriously, one of the best people I ever met. The world literally seems less bright without her in it to me. But I digress. The point is it brought up Heaven and death for my son too. He asked all kinds of questions – the ones I can barely answer. And while it was raw and hard – it was therapuetic too. As much as I flinched when he said she died as opposed to she passed away or one of the other more acceptable phrases it also gave me a time to really talk about it and her.

    I like that quote and I am going to remember it next time. My husband wound up sitting outside of the funeral with my one year old daughter – who can be very loud. I am going to remember that she belonged their. I will give you this quote – it is from my husband’s great aunt and great uncle – “Children are life – they deserve out love.” Dr and Mrs Alfred Steinschneider.
    .-= Upstatemomof3´s last blog ..Coming To An End =-.

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