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to have told my DD the truth about death?

(57 Posts)
tryhard Sat 01-Oct-16 10:36:31

I'm feeling really bad about this & would love to know how others have handled this...

My eldest is 5. The relevant background to this is that it was recently the anniversary of my Dad's death (he died before she was born), I tried to hide how upset I was but she saw me crying on the day & I explained why, just that I was sad because I miss my Daddy but thinking of all the good times makes me happy. Then I had a minor op, nothing serious but she saw me recovering in bed with stitches which she asked me a lot about. Then I was ill & needed to go to A&E in the middle of the night, the only thing she was aware of was that my Mom was here in morning & I was in bed recovering for a few days. I'm normally really fit & active, she's used to me running round after her etc so I guess it was unusual to see me ill in bed twice in quick succession.

Anyway, yesterday she suddenly bombarded with me questions about death: will you ever die Mummy, when will it be? When I'm a grown up? How many sleeps till you die? What's it like when you die? I don't want any of us to die...

I was so unprepared for it, it was so out of the blue, I just said were all young, fit & healthy & wont die for ages & ages. DH said I should have just lied & said that I'll never die, reasoning that at this age she doesn't need to know the truth about death. But I plan to tell her the truth about everything as she asks me (ie where do babies come from etc, which she hasn't asked yet).

So AIBU to have told her truth? Have I damaged her for life?! I'm worried I've not handled it right.

Haggisfish Sat 01-Oct-16 10:37:59

Yadnbu. Children need the truth. Saying you will never die will unsettle her more as she will know it isn't true. I've said the same things as you regarding death.

NapQueen Sat 01-Oct-16 10:38:19


We lost dh's sister 18m ago and ended up having to talk about death with dd (who was at the time 3y2m) a lot sooner than we had envisaged.

I always try and answer truthfully when she has questions but keep it light.

Wonderflonium Sat 01-Oct-16 10:39:02

You did the right thing...

elfish Sat 01-Oct-16 10:39:43

yanbu you handled it great

RunningLulu Sat 01-Oct-16 10:39:53

Children need to know the truth. I don't think you're being unreasonable at all.

Osolea Sat 01-Oct-16 10:40:35

I completely agree with your approach. Death is a part of life, and if it doesn't affect your child in any meaningful way while she's still young, then it's likely that it will affect someone in her class before she leaves primary school. It's better that she knows the truth from you than scare stories from others. I think the key is to let her know that while death brings sadness, it can be dealt with and its not all terrible, because it isn't!

EastMidsMummy Sat 01-Oct-16 10:41:31

Your husband is being unreasonable. You were being completely appropriate and sympathetic. Well done.

phillipp Sat 01-Oct-16 10:42:01

You did the right thing.

I told Dd the truth when she was a similar age.

Ds however seemed to have a melt down about people dying at about 4. In Panic I lied. Told him we wouldn't die. He is now five and I really regret lying to him. He was just so panicked and worrying about me dying or him dying and not being with us. It was awful.

I am not proud at all that I lied and I feel shit about it. I also have no plan of how to undo it. Not a clue. I Wish I never had said it.

willconcern Sat 01-Oct-16 10:42:06

Also totally agree with your approach. Your DH's approach would be lying and could have a much longer lasting detrimental effect.

RunnyRattata Sat 01-Oct-16 10:45:01

You did the right thing.
I told my littlies that I was planning to live till I am very old and they were completely fed up of me. Cue the 'never will be fed up with you mummy' comments, massive gcuddles and giggles.

ILostItInTheEarlyNineties Sat 01-Oct-16 10:55:39

Children will often experience a pet or grandparent dying so you can't avoid the subject.
I read an article by a psychiatrist that advised not to tell children that someone has 'gone to sleep' and won't wake up as they can become anxious about sleep. At a young age I do think it's better to keep explanations as simple and reassuring as you can.

Philip There are loads of good child friendly books tackling this subject. Maybe borrow one from the library for your dc? They usually tell the tale of a pet dog dying but could be a good way to start a discussion.
I think it's important to reassure children that most people live to old age and it's very rare for someone to die young.

EnidColeslaw771 Sat 01-Oct-16 11:03:09

Telling your child you will never die is a horrible lie to tell, yanbu.
Children deserve the (age appropriate) truth - how ekse are they supposed to trust you?

Mybugslife Sat 01-Oct-16 11:07:21

You 100% did the right thing. My dd was 3 when my ds died. I explained to her that he was poorly and couldn't grow in my tummy properly and that he had to go up to the sky (we're not religious but it seemed the best explanation, plus I like the idea that he's watching us).
Anyway, even at that age had loads and loads of questions. I answered then as honestly as I could. She's now 5 and still asks questions. I'm pg again and she asks if this baby will go up to the sky too which is hard but she is has every right to ask. In the last year my grandad and her dads Nan have also passed away and she understands that that's what happens when people are really old.

I also work in a funeral directors and she asks questions about my job....obviously I don't tell her the ins and outs but I say I help people say goodbye to the people they love when they die and she knows that when we go down to our ds's grave that is his garden to remember him and there's lots of other people who have gardens to be remembered too...she doesn't know that there is people under there.

She just accepts that this is what happens, I can't stand it when parents lie to their kids about such important things, it makes them worry more when they don't understand.

Leatherboundanddown Sat 01-Oct-16 11:08:47

You did the right thing. I have a daughter the same age and she is very pragmatic about death and dying. I'm sure once she loses someone close it will be really hard though.

Someone we knew died of cancer last year. She didn't really understand that but I tried to explain it in a sciency factual way about our bodies cells dying etc and being poorly and she seemed happy with that.

Mybugslife Sat 01-Oct-16 11:10:14

I also second what earlyNinties said. There are loads of great books. One we have at work is about an old oak tree and it can be really helpful.

ItShouldOfBeenJess Sat 01-Oct-16 11:12:33

bugs. Your post made me cry. I think you handled it brilliantly, as did OP.

RhiWrites Sat 01-Oct-16 11:13:22

I think that you answered pretty well but do you do realise what you said wasn't true? Still less "the truth".

Even if you are young and fit you can still be hit by a bus. I'm not saying you should have told your young daughter that anyone can die all the time but I think you should be aware that you didn't actually tell her the truth about death. You told a white lie to stop her worrying.

I think your partner's approach is bizarre "no one you love will ever die" is just a stupid and obvious lie.

But be aware that your own isn't exactly correct either.

ItShouldOfBeenJess Sat 01-Oct-16 11:17:32

Rhi. But wouldn't that just frighten her unnecessarily (taking into account she has already experienced death)?

tarajupp Sat 01-Oct-16 11:21:34

I think what you told her sounds pretty age appropriate - especially as you were put on the spot.
A great book if you feel the need or she is asking lots more questions is 'Waterbugs and Dragonflys'

GeorgeTheThird Sat 01-Oct-16 11:22:14

You handled it right. True but age appropriate is pretty much always the way to go with this parenting lark. A lot if them get a bit obsessed with death at this age while they work out what it means I'm afraid. So you might not have heard the last of it.

EnidColeslaw771 Sat 01-Oct-16 11:35:54

Both my children gave gone through phases of asking lots of questions about death, I just answer them truthfully but kindly and try and help them with the enormity of the concept. I said usually people are old when they die but sometimes people die of illness or accidents too and we just don't know when we will die so we need to try and live as well as we can. My eldest son asked me if children ever die and I said it's unusual but it does happen, he accepted that and was able to process it. Death is something we should talk about openly and which shouldn't be taboo.

KeyserSophie Sat 01-Oct-16 11:39:00

I've been pretty honest about it but I do skirt over young people dying because I don't want them to obsess and worry about me or DH dying. They'll know when they're old enough to rationalise it. At the moment probability isn't their strong point.

I also explained that there are different beliefs- that I think you're just dead but some people believe there's another life- I did this after DS made someone at school cry by insisting that "when you're dead there's nothing and your grandma who died last week can't watch over you". Thanks for that DS.

tryhard Sat 01-Oct-16 11:40:33

Phillipp don't feel bad, you reacted as you thought best at the time, again put on the spot as I was. If it helps even though I told her the truth, I feel awful that I couldn't hide my grief from her around my Dad's death, I didn't want to burden her with it but I couldn't hide how upset I was. It's interesting they are all similar ages asking about death - I wonder if they start to become aware of it more at this age, even if noone close to them has died yet?

bugs that sounds incredibly hard, it is just heartbreaking when your child asks questions, it's almost more painful because of them somehow, I think you've handled it brilliantly for your DD.

Rhi my Dad died suddenly so yes I know young people die too. I was just trying to reassure her that at the moment there's no reason I might die, it didn't occur to me to caveat that with but anyone can get cancer young/die in a car crash etc. As you say, I was put on the spot & didn't now what to say, esp as a previous posted said we aren't religious though I do say to her my Dad still watches over us all, I want to try to get her to understand that love doesn't die even if the person does. It's a difficult concept but a book that really seems to help is 'No Matter What'.

youarenotkiddingme Sat 01-Oct-16 11:41:59

Sounds like a perfectly age appropriate explanation to me.

Imagine telling her you'll never die, then her asking why yiur dad did, you explaining he was ill/old and then her panicking when your ill or thinking you're old enough to die. (We all know 5yo think old is much younger than we do!)

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