When I was 9 I learned about death. My Papa passed away after being in the hospital for a few months. Never before had I experienced such a thing and my family isn’t the type of family to sit down and talk about certain subjects (basically anything that is a touchy subject). So when my Papa passed away, of course I was upset, but I didn’t fully understand what had happened. Of course I figured it out and then I was terrified. As a matter of fact just thinking about it still terrifies me. I have my own beliefs and I do pray (probably not as much as I should, but I do it), but my family wasn’t big on going to church, in fact I don’t really have a dedicated religion I answer to. Like I said, I have my own beliefs.
The beginning of the week I took my mom to the cemetery to place some flowers on her father’s (my Papa) mother’s (my Nanie) and sister’s (my Aunt) grave. Since I am a stay-at-home mom right now, I dragged my 4 year old along with me. She has never been to the cemetery before nor have I had any kind of talk with her on the subject.
When we got there, while I was arranging the flowers, she looked around and asked my mom “So where is your mom and dad?” And so it begins. My mom and I looked at each other, kinda hoping the other one would speak. My mom took a deep breath and said “Down there in the ground honey.” Poor Emily’s eyes widened, and at first she was sort of speechless, which believe me for her is a BIG deal, and she finally said “How can they be down there?”
I held her hand, thinking of how I could delicately explain this to her. “It’s just their body love. Inside all of us there is a spirit and when we pass away God takes our spirit and takes care of us.” I knew she knew about God because of preschool, so I knew I had said at least one thing she may understand. She was quiet most of the rest of the time there. I asked her if she wanted to say goodbye when we left and she said no, which I totally understand. It’s a lot for a 4 year old to comprehend. Heck, I’m 33 and I’m not quite sure I understand.
She didn’t really ask any questions until way later in the night. The husband was at school, so it was just she and I sitting on the couch in our jammies, watching TV when she speaks up “Mommy, I’m scared.”
I look into her little brown eyes, “Why honey?”
“Because, the cemetery is scary,” tears start to form in her eyes. “I’m scared you are going to die.”
I felt my heart sink. I terrified my child. What do you say to something like that? I can’t promise her anything, obviously, but I don’t want to bring up the whole subject again because it truly scared her. All I could muster while I was trying to calm her down was “Don’t think about it. It will be okay.”
She cried for a good 15-20 minutes. When she finally went to sleep and after the husband got home, I explained what had happened. He knew that I was taking her with me, but up until night time she was okay. He looked at me with that “probably shouldn’t have done that” look.
It’s been about 5 days and she still gets upset about it, mostly at night, and she hugs me and cries for a little bit. I forget that she can understand more than what I give her credit for; she’s a smart cookie.
What have I done? Why did I do that to her? I can’t say that she’ll get over it because, in all honesty, I get anxiety over it, even with some experiences I have had (which can wait until a future post). Have any of you experienced the same? What would you tell your children?