Death and Life
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09-10-2015, 05:38 AM
Death and Life
Someone said something the other day that got me to thinking.

How old should a child be, before they are taught about death? What exactly, should they be taught?

I grew up spending every weekend on the family farm. (moved there permanent when I was 10). So I grew up seeing animals killed and butchered for as long as I can remember - and I don't ever recall being in any way upset by it. In fact - my dad and grandfather let me kill a steer one summer - it was before we moved to the farm - so I couldn't have been older than 9 years old. (22 rifle to the back of the head).

If nothing else - it gave me a realistic understanding of where dinner comes from.

The first person I knew who died was my grandmother (dad's mom) when I was 5. I don't recall any big speech about it - nor do I recall anyone telling me "grandma's with Jesus now"....

I suppose that's part of the reason that when my parents started attending church (dunno why) and forcing us kids to go (I must have been around 9) - I never quite bought in.

I suppose some people use religion as a pacifier of sorts when a kid is first exposed to death -- and I strongly suspect that's how the whole religion thingie got started in the first place. Sort of like the Santa Claus myth - except you expect a kid to grow out of that..



I'm a double atheist. I don't believe in your god or your politician.
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09-10-2015, 06:37 AM
RE: Death and Life
My grandfather died when I was pretty young. Unsure how old, but it must have been around 6 or 7. I recall going to the funeral.
I do not recall my feelings, but I knew I'd never see him again. I also had no belief in a god or heaven or anything like that. I don't think it did me any harm. By 9 I was spending my time hunting anyway. So death was all around me.

I think I turned out alright, but that is for others to decide I suppose.

As for how old a kid should be? I have no real idea. Maybe 5 or 6. Depends on the kid.

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09-10-2015, 06:52 AM (This post was last modified: 09-10-2015 06:55 AM by yakherder.)
RE: Death and Life
I've gone back and forth on the subject over the years, and come to the conclusion that it's one of those things where it's hard to be taught without an experience to associate with it. I hunted from a pretty young age. By 7 or 8 I was regularly bringing home squirrels and rabbits I nabbed with my slingshot. By 10 I had my own Winchester 94. My stepfather wasn't exactly the sentimental type, and me probably even less so. Nonetheless he was adamant about recognizing a living thing as a living thing, and not killing just for the sake of killing. Don't feel guilty about enjoying the hunt, but don't do it just for the enjoyment, use every part of it you can, only kill what you can use or that which is a threat, etc.

For my own son, I let relevant experiences determine when it's time to talk. When one of our cats died a few months back, for example. His age may influence my choice of words, but I'm gonna let the course of life determine when we have those words.

And it doesn't always work out ideally. Some of my most life altering experiences with life and death happened half a world away from any family I could have talked to.

'Murican Canadian
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09-10-2015, 08:21 AM (This post was last modified: 09-10-2015 08:40 AM by Bows and Arrows.)
RE: Death and Life
My mother died on my daughters 6th birthday. I didn't want to ruin her birthday, I didn't want her remembering her birthday as the day Grandma died- I didn't want that memory for my daughter. So I sucked it up and hid it from her was fucking hard as hell when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out. Later that evening we started the trip to PA for the funeral. Since it takes a few days to prepare the body, etc I told her after we arrived that Grandma died but still didn't tell her the date.

About 2 yrs later she came across one of those funeral cards and saw the date. I explained it to her then (the date). I also explained that the last thing my mom would have wanted was to spoil her grand daughters birthday. It wasn't intentional and if she had any control I am sure she wouldn't have picked that day to go. I think it was the right choice, then and now.

My girls were 6 & 4. By that time they had buried a few gold fish. They understood.

even now, they are still young 12 & 10 and have said goodbye to a beloved dog, 2 cats, grandma & grandpa and watched me mourn other family members they didn't know and friends.

They know that it's hard, but you eventually pick yourself up again, and it's OK to talk about those that are gone in loving ways even if a few tears fall in the process.

Overall, I think it's best to learn to handle at a young age. We will all eventually face a loved one dying.

"Life is a daring adventure or it is nothing"--Helen Keller
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09-10-2015, 08:25 AM
RE: Death and Life
I agree with yak, I think using an experience is a good way to explain what death is to a child. I also think it's important to teach children that all living things have value. As YH said, if you hunt, use all parts of the animal--don't kill just to kill.

My first experience with death was when I was ten and my grandfather passed away. I come from a religious family, so we were taught that we would see him again in heaven. I think this is the prime reason why people want to believe in religion, imo. The whole idea that you get to see your loved ones again is very comforting and in some ways, helps the grieving process. After becoming an atheist, I did struggle with the idea that I would not see my loved ones again. I understand why some people like to use religion as a security blanket in this sense, but I myself find reality much more comforting. Since I know there is no heaven and we only get this one life, it makes me cherish friends and family even more.
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09-10-2015, 08:31 AM
RE: Death and Life
I think it's often circumstance that determines when you talk to kids about death. My son first grappled with the idea of death and what happens after at age 6, when two of his cousins, both younger, ages 2.5 years and 5 months, were poisoned and the younger one died. I think it hit him pretty hard because they were young kids just like he was.

He asked what happened to Benjamin after dying, and we said we didn't know. We didn't take him to the funeral, where there was a bunch of claptrap about heaven and wasn't it great that the baby had been baptized, so it was certain he'd be going there. We had had brief conversations about the idea of heaven from the perspective that some people believe in it, some people don't, and nobody knows for sure.

We were hoping that we wouldn't have to have conversations like this until he was a bit older, but he did seem to process the information well.
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10-10-2015, 04:59 PM
RE: Death and Life
When I was a kid I was thinking about death a lot and I was scared. I grew up among atheists (accept my great grandma). She believed in God and I was making fun of her all the time.
But when my grandpa(true atheist) died I remember I was very sad, I cried and I missed my grandpa. And I wanted to be with him. I said some silly things I didn't believe but I wanted to comfort myself. I said: "Grandpa, I command your soul to stay here with me".
In about 6 month I had a dream: I was standing in one big field and it was huge stone in that field. Suddenly I saw my grandpa came from behind this stone and we had a conversation. I was so happy to see him and to talk to him. But then he said: I have to leave now. And I said: No, please, don't leave, I want to talk to you more. And he said: No, I have to leave. He left hiding behind that huge stone. I woke up. I was impressed. I will never forget that dream and how I felt.

English is my second language.
I will burn in hell because self-righteous atheists will send me there.
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10-10-2015, 05:14 PM
RE: Death and Life
(09-10-2015 05:38 AM)onlinebiker Wrote:  How old should a child be, before they are taught about death? What exactly, should they be taught?

I suppose some people use religion as a pacifier of sorts when a kid is first exposed to death

I don't know exactly the age of my kid when I explained death to her, perhaps 4 or 5 ish.
I asked her what a dead insect or dead bird looked like, does it move around, does it just stay still? What happens when you poke it with a stick? Is it likely to wake up and walk around at some later time?

Recently (almost 7) she has been having trouble sleeping, she is worried about dying. She keeps saying that if she had a wish she would wish that noone ever dies.
I told her that hopefully death is a long way away and that she needs to focus on life. I told her that everyone dies eventually, it's not something we need to worry about.

I also told her that some people believe there is a heaven that when you die you go there and "live" forever. I asked her if that makes her happy, she nodded.

The next morning I mentioned heaven again and she said, "but I don't believe it, heaven's not real" and I said that's right, noone has ever seen heaven, no one has come back and told us about it. I told her that people have just imagined it but there is no evidence to suggest that it is real.

She hasn't complained about not getting to sleep for thinking about death since. But we'll see. Poor young kids, life is so complex, so many things to learn about, not all things are happy and smurfy.
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10-10-2015, 05:34 PM
RE: Death and Life
My parents died waaaaaaaaay before my kids were born or even thought about.

I guess the first death my older son dealt with was hubby's grandmother. Both kids had to deal with their grand father.

The cat dying probably helped my younger son grasp the concept before hubby's dad died.

I had considered the bird my son wanted a throw-a-way pet that might help teach the kids to take care of something, and death...

But that damn bird lived 10 years.

But as if to knock me down, reality came around
And without so much as a mere touch, cut me into little pieces

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10-10-2015, 05:51 PM
RE: Death and Life
I remember being about 4 when we had a litter of kitten freez to death when they crawled into a cold metal clothdryer that was sitting outside. When I was around 6 my grandfather died and at about 9 or 10 my grandmother died. It's a natural thing. Everything dies. My mother always told me this.

And by the way, people don't "pass on". They die. They haven't gone anywhere or passed through something like a turnstyle. They're just dead, dead, dead. Tongue

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He is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,
Ill-fac’d, worse bodied, shapeless every where;
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Stigmatical in making, worse in mind.
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