“Mommy, I want you to die”
I taught my daughter not to fear death. This is what happened…
In the past, my daughter has said a couple of things that have made me feel concerned. Like the time she woke up in the morning and said: “I want to die.” Giggled and went about her day.
I believe maybe she is playing with the concept of death but then again, how normal is it for a four-year-old to see death as part of the human experience? Maybe I’m just not used to it. Maybe it’s a phase.
Maybe my daughter is too comfortable with the idea of death and doesn’t see it as a problem.
When I had my daughter, I wanted her to have the same sense of magic that I believe death to be. I have grown to see death as a beautiful experience. After her grandmother passed away, I began to experiment in telling my daughter about the reality of mortality. My explanation was that when her “earth-body” no longer works, her spirit body moves on to work with God and that when someone dies, it means that their work on earth is complete.
Of course, she wanted to know what happens to our physical bodies when we die. I explained that it turns into dirt, feeding the plants and trees. I told her death is necessary to put the nutrition back into the soil. It’s what makes the flowers so beautiful.
In my life, I’ve had two profound experiences that have shaped my view of death. My first experience started when I was taking care of my great-grandmother, she was in her late 90’s and declining quickly. Losing her hearing, site and general ability to function. It was my first summer job, I fed her, bathed her and made her comfortable. When summer was over, I went back to school, and she died shortly afterward. I couldn’t help but feel responsible for her passing. The second experience was caring for a lovely English gentleman in Manchester while I went to art school. We smoked, drank (unbeknownst to his daughters) and watched avant-garde films. Right up until the day he died.
It felt amazing to have celebrated and prepared someone for the most amazing adventure of their life.
I know that my daughters perspective came from feeling death was this beautiful experience and she wanted me to have it. It was still hard to hear that my daughter wants me to die. It’s weird and difficult to digest especially being her mother.
But I think kids often don’t get the chance to understand or explore the concept of death.
As parents, we don’t talk about it enough with them. I believe teaching my daughter that death is more that just an end, will change the way she lives her life.
If she could be free from the fear of death with the understand that in the face of suffering death is truly a gift. Then I will have succeeded (on at least one level) as a parent.
It does cross my mind that perhaps the reason the fear of death has been instilled so firmly in our culture is to help us value the life that we have and raising a kid that see’s death differently might have an effect that I can’t predict.
I know that my comfort with death has had an enormous impact on my spiritual life and I’m sure it will be for my daughter as well.
At least I hope so.
Emily K. Gaudreau is the host and founder How To Raise a Maverick Podcast, blog,and community of parents that are raising kids that have empathy, work ethic, grit and amazing self-sufficiency. Read her blog here. Listen to her podcast here.