Death is something we don’t often like to think or talk about. I am scared of death, not of dying per se, but of the very thought of having to live without someone I love. I guess we all worry about our family and friends. It is strange though that death in books, movies or crime serials seems so distant, something that barely touches us. Reading about death on a daily basis in newspapers has made us largely immune to the enormity of loss of life. A road accident death is a matter of headline for us, to be read and put aside, while it is someone’s world coming to a standstill.
It is tough enough sharing the grief or talking about death with adults. It is even harder talking about death with children. We avoid venturing there in order to shield them from the harsh realities of life. There is nothing wrong with that. Yet, it is also true that even very young children are aware of the concept of death. They see dead insects, birds and animals. They read about it in their fairy tales or children’s stories. They see it on television and news. Hence, they are exposed to it no matter how much we wished otherwise. The permanence of it may elude them though. Sometimes, they may want to talk about it and at other times they may wish to avoid a conversation around the topic or it may depend upon how open their elders are to discuss it.
I remember my own first brush with death was when I saw my maternal grandmother dead. I was just about 6 years old, but that sight never left my mind. I remember being picked up from school along with my sister in a rush. We had an arduous road journey to make from Allahabad to Unnao, and I remember mom crying non-stop, not able to really explain anything. All everyone said was that she was gone. And I wondered that she was right there but must be feeling so cold, as she was laid on an ice slab. It was so confusing to the little child in me.
Just yesterday, I was reading about a teenager who had committed suicide. Apparently, she had an argument with her parents over a trivial issue that blew out of proportion and lead her in taking the ultimate step. Of course, when one is angry, these small things seem magnified, almost worthy of giving up one’s life for. After all most of the quarrels we have in our daily lives are over small issues gone awry. As a parent, it made me really sad. What could be a bigger misfortune for a parent than to lose one’s child? These are the times when I talk to my kids about death and its impact on us.
I actually sat with my elder son and had a chat with him. I asked him to promise me never to take this step, no matter how terrible the circumstances may seem. As parents, we discipline our children. There will be times when we may have bitter quarrels, but the larger picture is that we love each other. Nothing will ever change that. That is the thread we have to hold on to when we feel upset, really upset with each other. It felt good after the talk that the conversation happened.
The younger son seems much less affected by this. He talks of death very casually. His idea of death is losing life, but he does not look at the event with too much emotion. After the Peshawar massacre, he commented that all the parents must be very sad as they lost their children. His reaction was stoic and calm while mine was more emotional and sad.
I also share with them memories of their late maternal grandmother. I share with them the sadness that I felt and continue to feel at her loss. I share the emotions about losing someone you love so dearly. And, they understand. Then they ask me to share more memories, which I gladly do. As a matter of fact, both the kids love hearing about our childhoods. It seems fascinating to them, far-fetched perhaps due to the absence of so many things that they take for granted.
Death is not a pleasurable topic to discuss but one that must be addressed from time to time for it is important.
Do you find it easy to talk about death or share your experiences about a loved one’s loss?