Talking about death

One topic I had never wished to talk to my son during his toddler years was death. Perhaps, I am not comfortable to talk about it even with adults. However, unfortunately, two weeks back there was bereavement in the family. My 12-year-old youngest sister (she was my Kaku’s younger daughter, but because it is a joint family, I never considered her anything less than my own sister) passed away. She was a special child, cerebral palsy, which happened at the time of birth due to negligence on part of the Doctor. Through out her life, she never spoke a word, yet my son had developed a special bonding with her, which is hard to explain in words. Every time he will visit my parents home, he will first go to Gudiya Masi (as he called her), say “hello’ and my sister always responded with a smile. Only then, my son will greet the rest of the family members. If we arrived at a time when my sister was being given a bath, he would wait patiently outside the bathroom. He will sit by her bed whenever she fell seriously sick, which was quite a regular feature.

My son is very vigilant in terms of who is present at his grandparent’s house and whoever is not around he will go on asking the whereabouts of that person. I was very confused as to how to break this news to my son, should I tell him or just let him be oblivious to the harsh realities of life. However, I knew the next time, he will visit his grandparents, and the obvious question will arise.

I am told children have very far fetched notions about death. Using terminologies such as ‘going away’ or ‘going to sleep’ is not only likely to instill in a child unfounded fears of travel and bedtime, but also unfounded hope that his masi will return or awaken. Not to mention the feeling of betrayal of having been lied to. I considered saying that ‘Gudiya Masi has gone to God because He loved her a lot’ but knowing my son I feared he might say ‘Can I go and visit’ or worse developing a fear that He will take me or any of his favourite person too.

Therefore, I decided to be honest and open. When my son asked when he visited my parents home, I took him on my lap and said in very simple words, “Sweetheart, your Gudiya Masi is no more. We cannot see her anymore. However, we can see her in photographs and above all, every time you miss her, if you just close your eyes and remember her, you will feel better. She will always be in our hearts.”

I don’t know what I did was right or wrong but my son seemed satisfied with the explanation. Every time I have visited my parents home since then (after I explained to my son about my sister’s demise) my son still goes to her room, close his eyes in front of her photograph for few seconds and then continue with his routine activities.

I love you, my precious little angel.

 

 

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9 Comments

  1. Khushi

    Oh Indrani. I am so sorry to hear about your sister. And I am so proud of your son for making the best of such a situation. It speaks so much about your parenting. I liked the explanation you gave.

  2. sophie

    Indrani, have faith. Children remind us about all that is good in this world. My condolences for your loss. Time will help.

    Having lost my father at the age of 6 yrs – I can vouch for the fact that your approach of being open and honest is the best one. Explanations given to me from well meaning aunts (like my dad’s elder sisters) that Baba had “gone far away” served only to give me false hope. My mother gently told me that “Baba chole geyche” and later I understood that his sould was eternal, enjoying a wonderful presence with my beloved Krishna, and that he would answer me if I prayed to him.
    Your sister will find much peace from your son’s honest prayers.

  3. indrani

    Thanks a lot Khushi & Sophie. Makes me feel more confident with my approach adopted. Though quite a few of my well meaning friends and relatives thoroughly disagreed with me. Thanks once again.

  4. Anonymous

    Indrani, my heartfelt condolences. Your approach is right. I mentioned death to my son the way you avoided – I told him far away with God. But it was heart wrenching to me for the next five years to hear him say ‘I want to go to God, I am asking God to take me, when can I go to God’ and in that line.

  5. sarmila

    sorry to hear this , may her soul rest in peace

  6. Indrani,i am so sorry to hear about your sister. I think your explanation & approaching is very good. May her soul rest in peace.

  7. Yasmin

    So sorry to hear about your loss. Please accept my condolences.

  8. Tana

    Indrani, Your post made me cry. Not only for your loss, but also for the beauty in your honesty and your son’s receiving of it. May your family be blessed with peace.

  9. Indrani

    Thanks to all of you for your condolences and for your positive feedback. It means a lot to me.

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