We all want to protect our kids from things that are sad, possibly frightening and possibly scary.

But what happens when someone, whether a person, or pet, dies?

This is something we have been spending a bit of time thinking about in our household as we grieve for my Nana and the kids Great-Nana.

My husband and I talked about how we each thought would be best to approach the subject. Making sure we were on the same page and consistent was really valuable. I also talked with some friends of mine about their experiences. One mentioned avoiding talking about the person being in a long sleep as they have experienced their child being frightened of going to bed at night.

We decided that we would try and be as honest as we could be with Maya and let her ask questions and go from there. We tried to give only basic information and if she asked for more we would take it as it came.

Maya participated in the funeral and even shoveled sand into the grave. We asked her if she had any questions and she asked if Great-Nana was stuck. I reassured her that she wasn’t. Maya accepted this and moved on to the next subject.

Maya didn’t bring up Great-Nana again until over a week later when she said that Great-Nana was sick. I reminded her that she’d died and that we had her funeral. Maya said “Yeah… and she had a flower and some sand.” This is something that Maya’s brought up a few times and I think shows that involving her in the funeral has been an important part of allowing her to process the death of her Great-Nana.

I think one thing I’ve really learnt from this is taking the child’s lead. I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all when it comes to discussing death and dying. Some kids may ask heaps of questions and want to understand it all where others might be content in asking questions here and there.

Kat’s sidebar

We’re fortunate enough not to have experienced death in our family during our kids lives. Dom does talk about death sometimes. He turned to me the other night and said, apropos of nothing, “Granny and Grandad are going to die soon.” Gearing up for a difficult conversation I paused the TV to give him my full attention. I said that I thought they still had a few years left but agreed that they would die one day. Dom took that in and that was the end of the conversation.

Like Olivia, letting the child lead the conversation and being honest and age appropriate is the approach we’re taking. So far, Dom’s quietly processed all information given and Connor hasn’t shown any interest in talking about death. I know it’ll likely get harder before we’re done, but for now this approach is working.