“Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly,
When you are king, dilly dilly,
I shall be queen
Who told you so, dilly dilly,
Who told you so?
‘Twas my own heart, dilly dilly,
That told me so”
Maybe I learned about death and found comfort there in my early childhood. Back in the day where beloved pets were not delivered to the veterinarian for cremation but instead carried lovingly to the back yard for burial. Where we would create our own cross from bits and pieces found in the barn, and with black ink, memorialize the name in a less than perfect way as our marker would never smoothly glide over the knots on our barn board. Over time, the name would fade, and one day you would find yourself driving by the old place and wondering if the cross still remained. I still do this to this day, If you see me slow in front of your home; chances are..I left a piece of my heart there in your care.
Children for the most part don’t have the opportunity to express grief in this value anymore. Rules and regulations have taken away from our chances to provide a valuable and much needed lesson to our littlest humans. So we must find new ways to include them in a process that is important to their emotional well being into adulthood.
Every family is unique, and every family will make the choice to deal with this in their own ways. There is truly no right way, but there is the only way that is right for you. So take from my thoughts and then make your own decisions when it comes to the young souls in your keeping.
In my work I am often asked to involve children in a parent’s reading. I love this opportunity to bring forward some peace to the eager little faces that I am sitting with. But, again, it is not for everyone and I would strongly suggest that you made a decision such as this as a family. Very often, during the course of a session like this, the kids are so excited to be able to share with me what they have encountered since the family member died. It becomes a safe space of sorts for them to finally say that Grampa was there to visit last night. And it’s incredibly beautiful to see how they shine with their stories. You don’t need someone like me to engage them in this conversation. You can simply sit with them, perhaps at the graveyard, perhaps at the kitchen table, and allow them to share something that will create a soft spot for them and some healing for yourself.
My children were very early introduced to the conversations surrounding death and grieving. I will use my daughter specifically because much of the death in our families occurred at times where she best recalls them. My boys were significantly removed from the time frame. My daughter’s hamster was buried in a yard in a sombre ceremony that we permitted her to create. For a small child she was incredibly respectful of the importance of saying goodbye to her little friend “Hammy”. Over the years to follow she lost several people, so that on the day where her beloved Nanny Shirley was facing the prospect of immediate death, my daughter was prepared. She was 12 years old, and on a holiday with friends when that day arrived. The very best I could offer for her in that moment was a phone call to speak with the woman that had been one of the brightest lights in my daughter’s young world.
I was present with my mother in law as this call took place. And I will never forget the maturity with which my young daughter handled what would ultimately be their last conversation.
“Hi Nanny….how are you feeling” was her first response to which my mother in law responded “Not so great Megan”.
Her next question almost knocked me over. Not only in it’s simplicity but in it’s straightforwardness.
“Nanny are you going to die?”
The response to this was equally as simple and honest.
“Yes Megan I think I am”.
I will not share any further of the conversation but am comfortable now saying that this word share was an integral part of the grieving process for which she would begin just a few short hours later. It allowed for her to find some peace and to better emotionalize the days and months to follow. And it allowed for her to understand that love simply never dies. To this day my daughter still sings the words to their favorite song to her own children and reminds them of a love she once shared with someone beautiful
Not every parent will find opportunity such as I have had to share this process with their young ones. And for the most part that is a good thing isn’t it. No one wants to have to help a little person grieve, but it ultimately will become a part of their journey so perhaps consider preparing them for that while they are young.
Talk about death openly. Include them in decisions surrounding the impending death of a pet. Include them in conversations surrounding the deaths of friends. Let them ask questions and answer them honestly. Take them for walks through graveyards and help them to understand the beautiful and soft nature of the quiet that you find there. Bring a picnic and sit among the headstones. I love to take my granddaughter to our local graveyard with bags of apples to feed the many deer that walk quietly through the space.
Create a comfort zone around the subject of death and dying. Ask them to draw pictures of what they believe it looks like. What they believe heaven might look like.
There will always be an opportunity to begin the process of teaching them to heal. Whether it be a school mate or the next door neighbor that suddenly isn’t there anymore to wave good morning. Using tactics such as “They went away on a long holiday” while easing for you in finding the right words, are a lost opportunity to provide some lessons early into their lives. We can learn ourselves how to more appropriately respond to grief when we allow children to show us the way.
Kids are incredibly resilient and curious. Once they have absorbed the understanding that from the physical perspective someone is gone, they will move onto the next part of the process of asking questions. It is amazing how many answers you find while you give them the answers you didn’t know you had.
There is nothing more beautiful to me than watching a small child, not pressured, not coerced, when they tip toe to the casket…and leaning in they pat the hands that they loved…or stretch as high as they can….to drop a kiss on the cheek that lays there. In this lies no fear at all. Just a simple understanding of love in it’s purest form.
And for them…this is goodbye…
Until we meet again….
A kiss goodbye.
Teach your babies not only how to live. But teach them how to live beyond death. Allow them to help you with your own pain. They are truly the closest things we have on earth to angels.
And they know the way.
Lavenders blue..dilly dilly….