Michael Jackson’s Death Got Me Thinking…How do you explain death to children?

by Melanie Edwards on June 26, 2009 · 10 comments

in life

Michael Jackson is dead. Dead!

And while my three year old will not understand the relevance of that, my husband and I sat at home last night repeatedly saying to ourselves, “Wow!”

I’m not sure why it hit harder than when any other celebrity dies. These things don’t usually phase me. I mean, I don’t know these people personally. Though I can sympathize for the family, it usually never hits home for me.

But, this one did for some reason. It might be because he was actually a part of my childhood. I have plenty of Michael Jackson related memories.

So, we busted out the Guitar Hero and played Beat It as our small little way of holding a tribute. Baby girl rocked out on the drums and I couldn’t help but stare at her thinking, “She’ll never know of him.” Well, she’ll know of him through his music and such, but she’ll never really understand like we did. It’s just like how I don’t really relate to Elvis, though my parents can. Get it?

Then I got to more thinking. How in the world will I ever explain death to her? Obviously, this is a milestone we will reach one day. But, to be honest, I have no idea what I’ll say to her at that moment.

And under what circumstances will she first learn what death is? Will it be because our fish died? Or will it be because of a close family member? I shudder at the thought.

More so, if that were to be the case, how will I be acting? How horrible will it be for me to have to mourn and grieve and also have to provide her with this life lesson?

Where’s that freaking manual that tells you how to deal with all these situations???!!!

I feel like I need to arm myself with a list of standard responses for those hard questions.

I cannot wrap my head around it all just yet. I suppose that’s fine actually. I doubt you can ever truly prepare for these things.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tyler - Building Camelot June 26, 2009 at 6:39 am

My daughter (3 1/2) already uses the word “dead” but I’m not sure she know exactly what it means. She’ll also use the term “dead it” on occasion. I wish there was a manual for teaching kids about death and I too dread the day that it really hits here what it means when something or someone dies.


Melanie (Modern Mami) June 29, 2009 at 7:11 am

@Tyler – Building Camelot, I get you. She’s heard the word in movies/TV, but she doesn’t know what it means. I suppose we make the manual as we go. 😉


Philippa June 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

Well I still have a little time to think about how I will handle that moment, but right now I would say my first option is to try the ‘going to heaven’ method. A sleep they never wake up from. But I don’t know, depending on the child even that may be too much for them.


Melanie (Modern Mami) June 29, 2009 at 7:11 am

@Philippa, Yea I think that sounds similar to what we *think* we’d say, but in the moment….you just never know.


@ctiedje June 29, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Honesty worked for our 5 year old when our beloved cat died. She took it amazingly well – almost too well. We expected her to take it harder than she did. Obviously all kids are different, but it worked for us.


Melanie (Modern Mami) June 30, 2009 at 6:42 am

@@ctiedje, That’s great that she did so well. You’re right, though, all kids are different.


Carissa June 29, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Right.. and be prepared for when the family pet dies? Will you be able to talk about it or just ignore it and hope they figure it out?? Good points here!


Melanie (Modern Mami) June 30, 2009 at 6:44 am

@Carissa, Ignore it? No way. I can’t imagine trying to figure out death on your own.


Jenny June 30, 2009 at 12:56 am

I’ve thought about how to do this. And my solution is…just come right out and say it. I think they get confused if you beat around the bush. But that’s just me.


Melanie (Modern Mami) June 30, 2009 at 6:44 am

@Jenny, You might be right. Sometimes kids deal with brutal honesty better than adults.


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