Friday, July 5, 2013

Discussing Death with a Preschooler

We have encountered quite a bit of death this month.  We had chick deaths, a chicken death, and our elderly neighbor passed away last week.

The chicks all got coffins we made out of plywood and buried in our little "cemetery" and marked with a tile. For this, my older son had a frame of reference.  At his school, one of their birds died last year and was given a funeral and burial complete with a tile to mark the grave. I was happy to continue the same with the chicks.  We have also spent a lot of time discussing how much we loved having them and miss them and what we will do differently next time.

The chicken got a discussion and place in the city compost bin.  She had been with us for almost 5 years and was a good chicken.  She was also the top hen, finally dying of old age in the hot summer after avoiding many attacks on the hens through this time.

But the neighbor dying last week has spurred many discussions.  She was old and had lived in her home for over 50 years.  She had grown a bit senile, and deteriorated over time.  She died in her sleep.  One of her caregivers told us about it (she had had 24-hour care in her home), and we brought her adult children a card, some flowers from the garden, and we baked some cupcakes for them.  I tried to explain to my preschooler that she wasn't here anymore, and her family was sad.  We could help them by stopping by with food and flowers.

This began a discussion of the spirit and how we are more than just a body.  We talked about how you could tell a chicken was dead before touching it-- you could tell a dead being from an alive one because the spirit was gone.  I am not sure if this was grasped.  It did, however, lead to a discussion about different religions and typical practices.  I explained Heaven and Hell.  I explained reincarnation.  I even got into the ancient Egyptian tradition of burying people with their stuff when he asked why her house wasn't hers any more.  I don't know how much of the talk was me just talking, and how much of it was us having a discussion, but he kept following me around and asking questions.

The first questions were all about how people die (of accidents, bad health, or old age, of course).  Then we started in on why she in particular had died, and ended with religions of the world and their beliefs.  This has been an ongoing, week-long give and take, which starts up again when we look at her house or her gorgeous old apple tree.
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