How NOT to Discuss Death with a 4 Year Old

Oh boy, I messed up. I never thought about how I was going to approach the subject of death with Leah. In fact, I guess I just assumed that she would pick up on it on her own and know what it meant. You know what they say about assuming…

I was completely blindsided the other night. I always like to tell Leah little stories about my “Papa”, and she has never questioned it before. We were doing the “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear” rhyme the other night and I told her that my Papa taught it to me when I was little. At first, she smiled, but then she got this kind of weird look on her face and asked,

“So, mommy, when am I gonna meet your Papa?”

“Oh, honey,” I replied, thinking this would be the end of it, “He died way before you were born.”

“Oh.” she answered. I felt relieved.

And then, “What does that mean?”

Oh crap. I am not prepared for this. I tried to tell her that death is like falling asleep, only you don’t wake up. Not wanting to scare her, I only talked about it in terms of the elderly.

She then told me that her imaginary friend did that once. Facepalm…she was not getting it. I was confusing her!

I backtracked.

“Okay, you are not really sleeping. Your whole body just gets really tired. No, not tired. It gets, um, old. And then it stops working.”

She looked at my blankly, and then changed the subject. Sigh. I messed this one up, big time. Next time it comes up, I had better be prepared!

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