How do I talk to my children about death?

Q: How do I talk to my kids about death? I mean how do I even talk to myself about death – especially in front of others? What if I hurt my children by talking about death? or curse them, or frighten them?

A: We finally left the Humane Society with a god, I mean, doG. There have been so many empty handed visits in the last few months – since we got the land in White Salmon. We named her that evening: Luna Waapatui (first came Waapatui and then Luna) She’s our small-ish medium cutie / bear alarm for new life in the wild (yes, there are bears and cougars and rattle snakes) I won’t let David go out at night until we have a dog to keep him, and the chalupinators, safe – at least as safe as I can humanly manage.

Anyway, the very next morning as we went on our morning stroll we saw the neighbor’s dog run out the door and his owner scurrying and calling out behind him. David immediately handed me the baby and went after him. The dog was headed toward our house – and we have already lost one goat to a dog attack.

When we caught up to him I found my 13 year old kitty, Brux (Fia’s first word), laying in a heap on the ground. She died a few minutes later in my arms. I watched the life leave her body, her breath quicken, slow, and then stop. I wept. I was relieved. We are burying her today under the Easter Hydrangea.

I want to be honest with Fia about death.

She says cool-ey, Mama we’ll just get another cat. and I say, I don’t want another cat.

I say to someone later that day (about something totally different), I just want to lay down and die.

And she overhears, Mama, I don’t want you to die. What if I didn’t have a Mamina?

My heart cracks. I do not want to hurt her.

I remember the words of a wise man: Accustom your children to hardship.

and I go back and forth like this for awhile.

Before having children . . .

I really thought of death as an amazing opportunity, a liberation, a celebration (could anything be harder than this planet??? smile). I still do and I am always a little braced for my children’s possible death, like its not quite safe to let them be alive, just in case they are whisked away suddenly. I had the honor of meeting Beth Knox of Crossings when I hosted her home-funeral workshop in Portland a year ago. Her daughter died in an auto accident when she was 8 years old:

I cared for her at home for three days, bathing her, watching her, taking in slowly the painful reality that she has passed from this life, and sharing my grief with her classmates and brothers and grandparents and our wonderful community of friends, before finally letting go of her body

Some would say she was traumatizing her still-living children by having her daughter’s funeral at home.

I say:

She was including them in the tapestry of being . . .

that includes All Things – the cycle of birth and death.

All things that ever have been or ever will be. All Things. Not just the nice ones.

But HOW do you do it? Should you just be completely open?

Today we buried Brux.

Brux who loved killing mice and leaving them on our doorstep. Today we take walks with our new dog who herself shows interest in chasing cats and squirrels. Today, we as a family celebrate our existence together and honor our mortality. We are learning the ways of hardship, how to meet, navigate, and emerge from the suffering of life. Hearts weeping, we are connected to each other – and to All Things.

Still not sure what to say?  Check out Part 2 of this article for more ways to honor death in our daily lives.

no spam ever :: unsubscribe anytime

receive sanctuary sermons, invitations & invocations for your sweet soft animal-soul

  1. I am sorry to hear about Brux kitty. RIP little one. My personal opinion is that honesty is best.
    We talk about death a lot over here in my family; we have had several reasons to lately as well. When one of our beloved midwives died earlier this spring, we did a lot of talking. The difficult part for me is the spiritual aspect, since our family does not have a particular spiritual belief. My four year old seems to grasp that different people believe different things, and that his mama is not quite sure exactly what she believes…but has a few personal favorites. I hate that I cannot promise my kids that I will always be here for them. One day, my son said, “You will die before me, mama.” I told him that I hoped so, and that I hoped it happened when he was good and old.

  2. As a kid I was exposed to death in a very dramatic way and no one explained it to me so I carried it for years until I eventually helped myself.

    Here is what I tell myself:

    Animals know that death is easy and freeing and we people tend to focus on loss and despair. If we truly believe that our newly deceased loved one was really better off and happier in their new place wouldn’t that help? and then if we were taught about the process of letting go of others (and things) as a normal passing wouldn’t that somehow help us not to fear change as much?

    Everything in life is temporary. If we were taught that that meant endless possibility and potential instead of loss and loneliness … seems that we would be more flexible and secure within ourselves.

    I went and got another cat. My cat died and Stew was very ill and we didn’t need the grief of loss so I went right out and got a kitten. We still missed the other cat but it demonstrated that are in a world filled with new souls coming to be with us as others leave.

    I know our loved ones don’t really leave, we just can’t see them right now….but they are still alive, more than when they were here and they can communicate with us in our dreams.. that love never leaves. Maybe it is just that we have to believe more in non physical communication.

    I don’t know if that helps or is anything that you haven’t already thought about. I have had some hard times where a loved one would have been nice but a stranger stepped in at just the right moment with everything I needed and I realized how I was never alone. That that same love that came from my mother watches out for me 24/7 and will send whatever or whomever I need when I need it.

    My mom died in December and while I miss her, she visits me in dreams frequently and is having so much fun. Happier than I ever saw in in life. but of course I am most familiar with our culture’s thoughts about death so I still struggle. And the physical part … her not being here physically.. if I had a stronger understanding about non physical communication would I feel better and be able to communicate more?

  3. krista says:

    @Mychelle: I like that…… “she has some personal favorites.” I’m gonna refer to my spiritual alignment / religion that way – I have some personal faves…. takes the righteous sting out, and I don’t want to be sting-ey that’s for sure….. like hey, this is what I’m working with right now…. wanna check it out?

    @Bev: thank you thank you thank you for sharing your insights! I love the part about new souls coming in all the time as others are departing. Reminds me of the fact that 300,000 women are giving birth right now on this planet. Helps with the isolation….. the cycle of life and death. It’s everywhere.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *