One of my favorite bloggers write a post today about answering tough questions with kids. And she invited others to post about it as well. Unfortunately, the conversation about death and heaven has been had many times in our house. And somehow, those conversations, though they can be sad, are good ones for us - we get to talk about those loved ones who are no longer with us. And so I am sharing my thoughts on the subject.
There are some questions that a parent is never ready to answer. And they seem to come a lot sooner than you expect them to! By now, Grace has asked most of them:
Mommy, how did I get in your tummy? (the answer right now is "Magic" or "God put you there").
Hey Mom. Am I going to get boobies too? (the answer? One day in a loooooooooooooooong time).
Recently, we went through some sad times in the family - we lost my dad's stepmother and his father within a week of each other. Grace knew Oma and Opa; they lived close by and spent holidays and special occasions with us. She thought Opa was the funniest man alive (and sometimes, she was right).
The hardest part was telling Grace that her beloved Opa died. I cried. She cried. Which made me cry harder.
Grace is 6. And in her short six years, we have had the "death conversation" too many times. Our cats died. Hubby's dog died. My grandparents passed away. And each time Grace asks about Hubby's mom and dad, her grandparents, we have to explain that they died before she was born. Even during Hubby's last heart surgery, Grace was concerned that Daddy would have to go to heaven cause the doctor might not be able to "fix him". It took lots of reassurance to let her know that Daddy was going to be okay.
Whether you believe in heaven/purgatory/hell or not, its not an easy conversation to have with a child. Heaven isnt a place you can go and visit and get acquainted with - its an abstract thought and at six, how much of that is she really understanding. Or does she even believe in that theory? She does now because I do and that is what I tell her - that those people who are no longer with us, after they die, they go to Heaven. And Heaven is a place where everyone is happy and healthy. Grace tells me it is also a place where dogs can swim and run and catch balls. Okay. Works for me.
Every once in awhile, she tears up and asks to see Jake-dog or that she wants to meet her Grandma Katy. Hubby tells her that she can look in her heart and that is where they live now.Shortly after Opa passed, Grace asked to write a letter to him and Grandma Katy and Grandpa Ron. Sure, I said. You can write them a letter anytime or you can even talk to them in your dreams while you are sleeping. Grace's biggest concern - whether or not the mailman will know which heaven to bring the letter to when she mailed it.
Maybe she is right and I am wrong - maybe there is more than one heaven. Who really knows!? What I do know that is I believe there is some place that souls go after death. Not a tangible place but there has to be somewhere, Because to me, its too sad to think that my beloved grandfathers and grandmothers and friends and in-laws who arent here with me are just gone. They are somewhere, even if that place is in my heart and not real - they do live on, And that is my heaven. One day, Grace can decide what she wants to believe in but for now, that is what we teach her.
Of all the questions she asks, the heaven questions are tough. The death questions are hard too - how do you answer a child when they want to know WHY someone died? They got really sick and the doctor couldn't make them better - well, I dont want her to twist that and be terrified every single time she is sick too. They were old and when you get old, you die. Ummm, nervous about that simple explanation as well - she thinks of me as old so will she think every one older than her is about to die?!
But the question I struggle with the most is: Where was I before I was born? Was I in heaven then too?
Ummm, I got nothing on that one. When I think of an answer, I will let you know.