💛Why do babies die Mummy?
💚What happens when a baby dies?
❤️Is it ok to talk about dying?
💙How can I stop feeling sad?
For children these questions can feel huge. These can be questions that they just do not seem to be able to fathom the answers to and understandably so because as adults we often do not have the answers either.
We have just started to get more of these questions from our Rainbow daughter (3years 11 months old) as she starts to make sense of why her big brother Oscar is not here.
When she asks “why do things die?” It can really catch us off guard. We have tried to help her understand by using books as resources (some examples in the comments and our online shop) and physical objects to show this process in a physical way. We picked a flower (a little buttercup that she chose) and we talked about all the things that the flower needed to grow and thrive.
We popped it on the side and looked at it again 2 days later. She was able to tell me that “the flower has died mummy?” Which allowed me to explain that because the buttercup didn’t get all the things it needed to live, grow and thrive it had sadly died.
This promoted more discussion about how it grew in the first place, are stones alive, why can’t her caterpillar live forever and will her Teddy Bear die?
These are all healthy and important conversations that she promoted and chatted through in her own way as she made sense of what she was learning. We have chosen to openly answer these questions as we want her to understand that it is ok to talk about dying.
We explain that it can be difficult to talk about dying as it is not always easy to find the right words but we want her to feel she can always ask.
“Mummy because Oscar died does that mean that you will die too?” This one really got me because yes, I will die one day. I wanted to reassure her that I am healthy, strong, well, happy and fit like her buttercup was before we picked it so will hopefully live a very long time. This gave me an opportunity to talk about things that are living and things that are not.
“Mummy when Oscar died what happened to him?” This wasn’t a question that we we’re expecting for a very long time. She wanted to know what a funeral was, why she didn’t go to it and where Oscar was now.
All very healthy, open and inquisitive questions that she wanted to know. We gently gave her a chance to tell us where she thought Oscar was to see what she wanted to believe or understand.
“Well mummy I think he is in my heart because I love him so much. He likes to sit on his star too!” For me that’s was a perfectly healthy understanding for a nearly 4 year old who has heard/known/learnt about her brother since she was born.
“I feel so sad because I miss Oscar” “I want Oscar to come home and live in our family forever” these two statements came a few weeks later when I picked her up from nursery. I think that talking about her feelings over time has given her the permission and acceptance to grieve, to talk, to ask questions and think of ways that we can remember, feel sad, feel happy and proud and include her brother in everyday things if she likes. We like to talk about happy memories, the feathers that she chose to collect and special days like his birthday but all at her own pace, level and if prompted by her.
There will always be questions that we just do not have the words to answer, there will always be times when we don’t know what to say and there will be feelings that we are unsure how to manage but we hope by being here for her will give her the knowledge that it is ok to come to us with anything she wants to ask.
As parents we never know if what we are doing is the right thing…. Is she too young…. Does she really need to know…. What if, what if, what if?
No one prepared us for Oscar to die.
No one prepared us with a book of how to “do this part of our life” so we are muddling our way through and hoping that we can reassure our little girl that she is loved, heard and supported.
What are your experiences? Any tips or suggestions for us as Children’s Grief awareness week comes to a close?
Sending love & support Oscar’s Wish Foundation 💙💗