Our first child passed away at five months of age due to cancer. She has her own website, a foundation has been started in her name, and a gigantic place in our hearts and family. Just because she is no longer physically with us does not mean that she is not in our everyday life.
That being said we are beginning to prepare to welcome another child into our lives, and I know that our firstborn will be a big part of their life. The issue is how to explain where our first child is without bringing in religion, or heaven into the conversation.
Both my husband and I are not clear on what we believe the afterlife is all about. Although I was raised Baptist heaven always seemed a strange concept to me, and I cannot picture our daughter floating around on clouds with a halo and angel wings.
How can I make the afterlife a non-scary place for a child without the clouds and harps? — Laura
In the past, when there have been posts on the theme of “how do I tell my kid about…?” questions on Offbeat Home, people offer something along the lines of “Make sure you don’t offer more information than they’re really asking for/needing/ready to understand.”
For example, I thought about how I would tell my daughter that she doesn’t have any grandpas, long before she wondered, but decided to wait to talk about it until she noticed. At around two-and-a-half she noticed. She didn’t so much ask as tell me, that she didn’t have any grandpa’s. I confirmed that, “You’re right, you don’t have any grandpa’s. Some kids have grandpa’s and some don’t.” She seemed satisfied, so I didn’t have to launch into the lecture I had brewing.
Maybe next she’ll ask why, and I’ll see if I can figure out what information she wants.
With older kids, I might ask how they feel about what I’ve said, was that what they wanted to know, did they have any other questions… And if it came down to my daughter actually asking where grandpa, or any other creature, went when they died, I’d give her my opinion, and be very clear that it’s my opinion, and other people think differently, and that’s okay.
It’s an imperfect science. And I know that can be unsettling, when sometimes kids just want one real, infallible truth, but I think it’s important to let them experience that uneasiness, and get used to the idea that opinions don’t make facts.