Two and a half years ago my father died. It happened just before Jack turned two. During the first few days of my grief I made a decision that I would explain to Jack that his Granpops had died. I don’t know how I was going to do this but I felt it was key to him remembering my father and also, it would be easier for me and my mother and siblings to discuss my father around him comfortably. He was too young now but the time would present itself.
About a year later, shortly after Lucy was born, he came across a photo of my father and asked who he was. I took this as the opportunity I had been waiting for. I sat him on my knee, photo in hand, and explained that the man in the photo was my Dad, his Granpops, who died when Jack was two years old. I explained that he was also Gruncle and Aunti-Dooni’s Dad and he was also Ganna’s husband.
“Oh,” he replied.
Then he asked, “What made him die?”
I explained that Granpops had got very sick and the sickness got too much and that was how he died.
“You were sad mummy?”
“Yes Jack, I was very sad and sometimes I still get sad when I remember him.”
“Oh.” He said in reply while gently resting his head on my chest.
For all it was, it could have been the tightest hug in the world.
A few days later, my mother-in-law, told me that Jack had explained to her that his Granpops had gone into the forest one-day and eaten too many worms and had died from all the worms. It doesn’t matter how he interprets my father’s death, the point is, he knows his Granpops has died and has accepted it in his own way. I think, the fact my Dad is dead makes the stories Jack hears of his life all the more fascinating and intriguing for him. There are so many to tell and I relish telling them as the legacy of his Granpops takes form in his little mind.
What did I get from this: Death is a part of life and if a child is old enough to understand the birth of a new life, so he should be ready to understand the death of one.