So today I had an unexpected conversation with my almost 5 year old. It took me off guard and I'm not entirely sure if I said the right thing, or even if there is a right thing to say... We've been frequenting the local ice rink (as in every home game of our local high school time) and every time we walk in my Jack (who will be 5 in April) comments on a retired Jersey hanging in the front corridor. He asks why it has his last name on it... in the beginning I questioned if I should just say just say yes it's our last name and move on, but lately he's been more inquisitive, and truly wants to know more. So my husband and I explained to him that his uncle was a really good hockey player that played many years in this same rink, but is uncle was very sick and went to heaven....
My brother in-law passed away after battling cancer, many years before my son was born. Jack never knew his uncle, and frankly I didn't think that it would really effect him... but boy was I wrong... Lately Jack has been looking at his picture and talking about him more and more.. But today was different. Today I found my sweet boy curled up in his bed and sobbing uncontrollably...and clutching his uncles picture. I asked him what was making him sad and through his heavy tears he says "I just really miss my Uncle Evans"... Literally his somberness continued for a couple hours. I told him more and more about death and heaven (that seemed appropriate for his age) and told him all sorts of details about his late uncle, including how much he would have loved to watch Jack on the ice and how much he loved to have a good time (hoping that would cheer him up). Truth is though I shot from the hip, went with my gut (usually how I roll)... but I still feel a bit unprepared, though not sure talking to a young child about death would ever be an easy conversation. We've talked about death a little bit before, in the context of a dog, a great-grandmother, a friend, and he's always seemed to understand enough, but never wanted to delve in deeper and never this level of grief.
As an aside,my son could not be any more like his late uncle... in looks with his sweet dimples, his mischievous behavior and kind heart, and even down to the way he skates and holds himself on the ice. My in-laws often hear Jack's hearty laugh and smile and nod in pain and joy that their son is most definitely present in mine... At some level, I truly believe these two have a connection...
Somehow I don't think this is the end of the conversation, nor do I think it should be. I anticipate Jack will talk about his uncle every time we enter the rink. I'm just hoping I can help my sweet boy channel the sadness. I'm hoping he'll hear funny stories about his uncle and see pictures and smile...
Have you had conversations with your little one about death, dying, loss of a loved one? Would love to hear your approach/resources, or even ways of remembrance. I'm thinking I'll head to the library and look for book geared towards preschoolers, but would love to hear from you!
Thanks always for stopping by and listening as I navigate this uncharted territory in my parenting journey.
I'm Rebecca, a Maine mom of three energetic young boys and wife of a lobsterman, living in my favorite place, the coast of Maine. You'll find me here talking about my parenting journey, mom style, recipes, running and exercise, travel, stories from our life in Maine and so much more! Most days I'm just figuring it out as I go - Thanks so much for stopping by!