The afternoon we lost our bunny, I decided to call my sister because she has a different view and experience with death. She studied to be a death doula and has helped the elderly transition during their time. I also know she has dealt with explaining death to her daughter, my niece, several times with the loss of small animals. I wanted to get her perspective on death and children as well as get some tips on explaining any questions to my son. I’m so grateful I did call her. Not that I’m trying to “normalize” death during childhood, but I do want my son to understand it happens and it IS a normal part of life. You can see I’m working through some of my own trauma here. I saw my first dead body when I was around my son’s age. My grandmother being the diligent church-going woman she was took me with her to the funeral of a parishioner she knew. I remember the confusion and fear and not understanding what happened or any relationship with the after. I feared the woman sitting up, not understanding why we looked at her body, noticing her eyes closed but not quite all the way.
My initial experience made me fear death and loss of those around me. Regardless of my spiritual beliefs, I could never get over the fear of losing people because I couldn’t wrap my head around what happens/happened next. I simply didn’t want to lose them. I lost my first guinea pig when I was about eight. I had spent the night at my friend’s house and on the drive home, I told my mom I wanted to hold him when I got home. She said nothing to me. When we walked inside, I remember it was my sister who told me that he had died that night. I remember thinking it was a really sick joke. But that connection creeped me out at first: I mean, what were the odds of me talking about holding him right before I found out he died? I had spent the night at my friend’s house countless times and never mentioned the animal. It was only a handful of years after that initial experience when I lost one of the most important people to me at the time, my grandfather. I remember touching his hand while he lay in the casket and feeling the cold. It didn’t feel real, and I never felt a pain like that before.
So. Yes, I know I can’t hide ANY of that from my son, and here I go trying to control what he is exposed to all over again. And with that, the conversation with my sister made me realize that he will be ok. As long as I don’t make a thing out of it, he will be alright. She recommended I talk to him about my beliefs about what happens with death but to let him come to me. Naturally I started questioning what my beliefs are and why I still have issues with death. I mean, I have feelings about what happens but I don’t subscribe to a particular religion/belief system. No doubt I believe in a higher power and energy and source, I’m just not quite sure what it all means yet. She also offered to have him speak to his cousin about it because she is a bit older and has dealt with the exact situation before. That made sense. Again, she said to let him come to me about it. I mean, I’ve checked on him often asking if he wants to talk, but I’m not forcing him.
I know it’s natural to bring facets of ourselves into our children whether we mean to or not. I see that some of the fears my grandmother and mother had surrounding death made their way onto me. I have a feeling early exposure in my life was meant as a way to teach and potentially inspire faith and to eliminate fear. It had the opposite effect. So I need to not react with fear in this circumstance in order to not pass that on to my son. He made a comment this morning about wanting to rush time, and I see how I do that as well. Always hopping to the next thing, never really being present, and I have to cure that and learn to be with him, right now, in spite of the laundry list of things I need to accomplish—and the ones I want to accomplish. So maybe all the fears I’m projecting on him are why they’re coming true. Missing the time we have now, losing things early. I’ve always been concerned because he is super destructive, but maybe he’s teaching me to let go. So maybe this is something I can let go of too. He is fine. He doesn’t need to carry my weirdness, he has his own 😊. All I can do is be present with love.