Families need to come together to talk about death. Even the youngest can understand final wishes when they start learning at an early age. Why is it so difficult to have the conversation?

A local preschool has a tiny, fenced-in plot with a sign that says “Cemetery” where children have buried dead birds and classroom pets. Nearby, the kindergarten students found remnants of cat bones on their property. The discovery started a conversation and a special learning experience with caring, sensitive teachers.

Some parents have taken their young children to the cemetery to visit siblings who died at birth or relatives they never knew. It gives their lives a connection and a story to keep for the future.

A father answers his son’s questions about ‘how things work’ and the boy asks “what happens to your body when you die?”’ The father describes funerals and cemeteries in age-appropriate words.
The boy says he “wants to help dig.” They talk about Green Burials and watch a video online together to help him understand that his mother would like to be returned to the earth when she dies.

Why don’t adult children start the conversation with aging parents? Why don’t couples talk about their final plans before they become gravely ill? There are opportunities all around us, to talk about our final plans. Natural disasters and news reports offer a perfect opening to ask “what would you like for yourself?”

In other countries, the topic of death is a normal part of growing up. In the USA, we struggle with the words, afraid of upsetting – or of being upset. Let’s start early. The book LIFETIMES by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen is a beautiful way to explain death to children, about plants, animals, and people.Maybe then the little ones can start the conversation.

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