Surviving in a Male Dominated Household

Snakes and snails and puppy dog tails...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Discussing Death with the Kids

I knew the conversation would be coming up soon. I just didn't know that a topic with such gravity would be so well handled...thus far.

My husband is blessed to still have a Grandparent alive. I never knew my Father's parents, as they passed before I was born. My Grandma JoAnn died when I was 6 and I can still remember her house, spending the night with her and thinking she was the smartest person in the world because she helped me figure out a Rainbow Brite word jumble (it was backwards and she held it up to a mirror so I could read it). I remember Grandma's funeral and refusing to go to the cemetery. I remember how upset my dad was with me, but I just refused to go. I wanted to remember Grandma cooking in the kitchen, working in her garden and showing me how to make hospital corners on the bed when putting fresh sheets from the clothesline on.

My Maternal Grandfather passed when I was a Senior in High School. He and I were very close. So close that he gave me his Wings from WWII. So close that I was chosen to be the Lector at his funeral. So close that every day after cheerleading practice after school, I'd drive in to Carroll just to sit with him for a few hours...even if he insisted on watching "Wheel of Fortune". When he died, I took it hard. He was my last Grandparent. He was my Grandpa. He was my friend.

I didn't get to meet David's Paternal Grandfather but I did attend his funeral. We had been dating about 4 months when he died. Attending his funeral brought up memories of my own Grandpa and I think I cried harder than those who knew Loel (Dave's Grandpa).

But life and death is a cycle. Our second child, Sean, was born on the 5 year anniversary of Loel's death. Sean was 3 days before his scheduled date and just decided that's when he was going to be born. And Sean is ALL Bowman. A man of few words. A man of action. He may not say it, but you know he loves you. And from what I understand, his Great-Grandfather was the same way.

David's Maternal Grandfather is now in his last chapter. He's been suffering from Alzheimer's for some time now and his body is slowly breaking down. It's been a sad, slow process. We've allowed my in-laws to take Liam to visit him on occasion, but on Saturday we got a call we've feared. He's going fast. They're moving him from the nursing home to the hospital.

Liam was visiting my parents for the weekend and Dave took Sean. Sean is too little (he'll be 2 in April) to remember the visit, but it would be good for Great Grandpa to see him. I kept my parents informed as to what was going on and Liam said, "Great Grandpa Bob is dying."

I'm not sure how he'll take it once Grandpa does go. Liam has never seen a body. He hasn't been to a funeral or a wake. I'm not sure how he'll process it all once it does happen. But he seems to understand that when people die, they don't come back. He knows about heaven and Jesus (and thanks to a kid at preschool, "black angels") and that our soul lives on but the body dies. That's some pretty heavy stuff for a five year old.

I'm sure Sean won't know what's going on, but in the interest of being honest, we're planning on telling him the straight facts. We're not going to say "he's sleeping" or anything like that...just that he died.

How have you explained death to your kids? What worked for you and your family?

1 comment:

Julia said...

we used honesty and faith when they asked questions. didn't hide anything from them, didn't say 'he's going to sleep,' didn't use dumbed down words. knowledge is power. of all the grandkids, ours are the least turned off by sickness and dying, braver then matt's sibs to enter a hospital and hospice, funeral home, and cemetery. if a child life specialist is available, you can also use that person to talk to the kids.