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"We don't want to die, mummy."

(19 Posts)
ScummyMummy Tue 09-Mar-04 19:22:44

Just heard loud weeping and wailing from the bathroom where my twin sons (almost 5)were in the bath. Rushed in at top speed thinking they were drowning each other and found them both in floods of tears. When I asked what on earth was wrong they just sobbed out "We don't want to die." and asked me loads of questions about death. "When will we die?" "Will we be alive after we die?" "How will we die?"
They were SO upset- it was awful. Must admit I was totally unprepared for them to be worrying about their own mortality at this age. I comforted them as best I could but I didn't feel I gave very good answers. What should I have said? What shall I say if it comes up again? How do I stop them lying awake at night despairing? Plase tell me, wise ones! Anyone had a similar experience?

doormat Tue 09-Mar-04 19:29:44

Scummy this is normal
just give them plenty of reassurance and if they want to know about death explain it to them in a "rose tinted glasses" and plenty of white lies way so they will not be afraid
ie we go to a wonderful place called heaven where everyone is together and happy
hope they are ok now

mummytojames Tue 09-Mar-04 19:31:51

first of all find out what made them ask this question as they might of heared it from someone and if its a adult ask them politely not to talk of such adult things infront of them because i have never heared of a five year old coming out with something like that on there own acord secoundly reasure them death is not something to fear and they have gota long time before they have to start thinking about that
hope this helps as i have never heared such a young child come out with something like that like i said i think they heared it from someone and its played with there minds poor little things

expatkat Tue 09-Mar-04 19:36:15

Hi, scummy, a little while back there was a thread on this (I'll put up a link in a minute if I can find it) but I'm glad you revived the subject because I'm still having this problem with my ds.

I've asked older & wiser parents & the consensus seems to be to tell them whatever reassures them. So even if you're not religious, as I am not, you might still want to explain a bit about heaven if it helps to alleviate their worries. I have had many long & complicated conversations with sensitive ds on this subject. I, too, have found him dissolved in tears over this--and have found few things more painful than watching his distress over this. I'm anxiously awaiting the other replies you get. Hope someone offers some really good advice on this.

twiglett Tue 09-Mar-04 19:38:31

message withdrawn

expatkat Tue 09-Mar-04 19:39:34

My post crossed with all the others. And I'm sorry but I can't find the old conversation I was speaking of.

Janh Tue 09-Mar-04 20:03:28

Oh, dear, scummy, isn't motherhood *hard*!!! I'm pretty sure all of mine have been through this stage though I can't remember exactly when, but I've always done the big general reassurance thing like doormat, emphasising that most people live for years and years and that we certainly intend to. (And that dying doesn't usually hurt.)

If you can find out what kicked this off you can give them more specific reassurance. Maybe somebody at school's had a relative die, or they've seen something on the news, overheard (or even misunderstood) somebody talking...

I remember the thread expatkat mentioned but obviously tech still hasn't finished tweaking search.

hewlettsdaughter Tue 09-Mar-04 20:06:31

I've heard Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley is good - my sister is a reception class teacher and she recommends it.

Janh Tue 09-Mar-04 20:12:45

Several books recommended here , scummy.

Katherine Wed 10-Mar-04 09:21:41

Have a look in your libary for books. They are usually in the kids end in the section for parents on birth, divorce, diet, bullying etc etc.

My dad died recently so I got some bookes out for my two (almost 4 and 5.5). We looked at the one about the dragonflies etc. Looked good but very small print. There was also one called always and forever about a fox who died and his friends left behind and another called bears last journey about an old bear who is dying and saying goodbye to his friends. He actually says he doesn't know what happens -s ome beleive in heaven, others a long sleep etc. It was quite a reassuring if sad story. Also one of my old lecturers Sandra Horn used to do work on grief and dying with children. She was writing about book about a scarecrow but I don't know if it was ever published.

Mind are quite matter of fact about it all but so far they've not applied to to themselves. I can only imagne how you feel. Keep looking for books though as I always feel it helps. Afyter you've read them they often take them to bed and look themsevles and I think thats when they really think about it.

aloha Wed 10-Mar-04 09:36:00

My stepdaughter was also in the bath with dh when the same thing occurred to her - lots of tears, "I don't want to die" etc. Dh is very matter of fact by nature and just said that it wouldn't happen for a very, very long time until she was a very, very old lady and then pretty much changed the subject. I have to say that she has never dwelt on the subject since and is a remarkably unanguished (no such word but you know what I mean!) person at the age of 12. She has certainly never stayed up at night despairing! I think the realisation was a shock, but once the shock was over, it was like most things with children that age, they are on to the next thing.

bloss Wed 10-Mar-04 12:14:22

Message withdrawn

Marina Wed 10-Mar-04 12:24:42

Scummy, I'd definitely agree with Janh that checking with the school is worth it. There could well be someone with a recently deceased relative or sibling. Or just a naughty older child who likes to scare Reception.
We went through this with ds. You're such a fantastic mum I wouldn't mind betting that how you handled it has reassured them already, but what we found worked was explaining that illness leading to death rarely happens to people their age (how many children do you know? And how many have died...etc) and that it is normal to feel scared of dying when life is so much fun. I'm afraid I also chucked in some mini-homilies about good behaviour near roads, seatbelts and electricity sockets also reducing your risk, but then I am a nagging old fusspot .
Funny how bathtime encourages the mini Mumsnet philosophers...sweet boys.

ks Wed 10-Mar-04 12:32:57

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Tortington Wed 10-Mar-04 14:11:10

yesp thnking about you but cant give any advice as my kids still think they will live forever - its a bit strange that its come on all of a sudden, maybe it was a cancer advert or something?

Agy Wed 10-Mar-04 14:37:23

I found a bit about this in an old Dr Spock book I got from a church sale. It says questions about this are apt to come up at this time. Says you might say "Everybody has to die someday. Most people die when they get very old and tired and weak and don't want to stay alive anymore.They don't want to get up in the morning and work. They just stop being alive." Says remember to hug them and smile and tell them you are going to be together for years and years.Says keep it casual.

ScummyMummy Thu 11-Mar-04 21:47:06

Thanks so much, everyone. There's some great advice here. I'm not really any further on in figuring out what triggered this; could be anything really- one of their fish died around six months ago and they do know that my mum is dead but they've never seemed to really grasp the enormity of death before. I did check with their school and received my quote of the year so far from their lovely and concerned Reception teacher: "But we're doing daffodils this week, not death!" She's such a sweetie and looked out a few books that might be helpful for us to read together. The boys have continued to ask questions ("If my nose dies, mummy, will I die too?" being my favourite) but much of the emotional upset seems on hold for the moment, thank goodness. I guess it's a wake up call for me to sort out my own beliefs and find a way of communicating about upsetting stuff reassuringly at five year old level. Your posts have been v helpful at getting me started on that. Thanks guys.

aloha Thu 11-Mar-04 22:08:03

Scummy, I'm sure nothing triggered my stepdaughter asking. My dh was really just like the book Agy suggested and she's never been bothered since. I think sometimes we take it more seriously than they do.

tigermoth Thu 11-Mar-04 22:29:05

I think as long as your attitude is loving and matter of fact, that goes a long way to reassure them, so whatever you say, say it with a big smile on your fact and cuddle them afterwards. My oldest son asked about death, especially around the time my mother died, when he was five and a half. I did say people just get very tired when they are old and want a rest, but WE are not like that now, we have a long, long time ahead of us. When he asked about death he really wanted lots of reassurance he wasn't going to die for ages - he didn't want to know the actual facts of death or think of the spiritual side of things. So reassurance first, info second.

I've little experience of twins, but do you think they sometimes feel things very deeply when they are together - if one is upset, does the other follow suit, so emotions sort of escalate? could this have partly explained their extreme upset in the bath? I am so glad they have recovered from this unhappy state.

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