Last September, my brother-in-law and Ben's favorite uncle passed away. He was someone Ben saw several times a week and they had grown quite close. When he died, Ben was 2 years, 7 months, and most certainly not old enough to understand death. While I'd hoped he would be older when I had to start trying to explain it to him, my husband and I wanted to find a way to be honest and give him room to ask questions with the hope that he would come to a better understanding over time.
Of course, I turned to books as a way to introduce the topic. I collected recommendations and read through a number of them in advance. There are a lot of options out there, and depending on a child's age and family's beliefs, there is certain to be something for everyone. The books we read that seemed to be helpful in terms of getting Ben to open up included the following:
- The Invisible String - Patrice Karst
- Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Death - Pat Schweibert
- The Way I Feel - Janan Cain (about feelings, not death specific)
Books I have found comforting in the face of death and understanding my own feelings - these are links to my blog pieces on each of these books:
When books and words are too much, it's also nice to have a quiet place to go and just remember. Ben's aunt has a Zen Garden in her backyard where she has a memorial to her late husband. It's a beautiful place, and while Ben has shown some reluctance about going to it when he visits, he often talks about it as a place where he can visit his uncle if he ever wants to. I know he is still a little confused by the concept, but at the same time, I feel like it does bring him some comfort. I definitely don't always have good answers for all his questions, but in an effort to keep the memory alive of the ones we love, it's nice to be able to keep having the conversation.