Thoughts on Day of the Dead and Death Celebrations and Real Life Death and Dying.
In this post I want to address the part of the process of life: Death and Dying. With Halloween festivities quickly approaching, I want to remind parents that children look to us adults to set the examples about life and death.
I wonder if our children and grandchildren get confused about loved ones dying with all the carrying on at Halloween time or with creepy cartoons..
The image is from a neighbor’s annual Halloween yard scene a number of years ago. Many folks love to set up this kind of death related display for fun. I won’t address whether it is in good taste or not.
- There are many reasons why Americans love to decorate for Halloween.
- There are also valid reasons why some people believe Halloween / Day of the Dead is a bad thing.
- I won’t be judging either point of view in this post.
- I love to dress up anytime of the year – and I am quite grown-up at age 65.
- I love to read fiction. I even love to write fiction. I DO know the differences between fantasy and real life. ( Most of the time- I get temporarily swayed by TV commercials and I cry at sad movies.)
- At this age my parents have passed on as well as a number of the people I grew up with.
- At age 20 when I was in nurses training my life was greatly impacted having read Kübler-Ross book On Death and Dying.
(Please click on then to become more familiar with Elizabeth Kubler- Ross model on the 5 emotional stages we human go through when ever we experience any life changing event that may include death. )
At that time I did not understand DEATH at all. The summer before that 3 of my grand parents passed away. I was not prepared for these life changes.
Though I have experienced loved ones and patients dying on “my watch”many times since the 1970’s I know that still don’t have a handle on how to make grief any less hard than I feel it is.
What I do know is:
- Death and dying is not a laughing matter to play with or mock.
- Death is a part of all life that signals the end of relationships and the beginning of new changes for the survivors.
- Holidays are hard on surviving loved ones/ family members. while so many around us are having a “good time” there are those who feel so very alone now that a significant person has passed away.
When we chose a costume or yard decorations can we be sensitive /respectful to our neighbors about death and dying and the stages of grief they may be going through alone?
If you were to walk by the above image as you walk your 7 year old home from school do you think that ghoul could prompt a conversation with your child?
What do think about saying something like this?
“Mary Anne, I think that ghoul in Mr smith’s yard looks gross- like it needed a bath 3 years ago. What words do you think of when you walk past this yard dummy?”
- Listen to what Mary Anne has to say with out interrupting, correcting or judging.
“I’ve been thinking about the time when my best friend died when I was in 4th grade. I remember that at first I could not believe that she had drowned..she was gone..she was dead. ..I would never see her smiling face again or play tag with her…I miss her..my heart still hurts.
“Then I got confused. Really confused when Halloween came around. I wondered if her ghost would haunt me of if she would now be a zombie..You know all those creepy costumes and decorations gave me ideas. do you think I was pretty weird,huh?
“..well, I did not know who to talk to about my sad feelings back then when I was 9. I was scared sometimes because I did not know then that it is OK ,normal, to miss people who die.,but, afraid to ask about real death and dying..not the pretend stuff…so,I was thinking maybe you might get confused, too, about all the skeletons,ghosts and make-believe creepy dead-like stuff…”
“I want you know that you can ask me any thing and any time you wonder about life and stuff..I still don’t know all the answers to everything,but we can read about about those things to learn more.What do you think, Mary Anne?”
Taking the first steps to have conversations about life and death can be awkward at first. So, here are my tips:
- Keep the vocabulary simple on the child’s level
- Be informative with facts but, avoid bombarding your kids with a research paper on Kubler -Ross, unless they are in college with that reading assignment.
- Talk naturally about your feelings when you think about the subject. ( Keep in mind the child’s age level.)
- Be honest with your emotions (on child’s level.)
- Watch the body language; yours and your child’s body reactions.
- Listen to what your child says…Be silent as you LISTEN.
There is so much more to be said about the process of death and dying and grief. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.
I am Malika Bourne the No Non-cents Nanna encouraging you to Make Good Choices.
Note: I really don’t like my choices of images.I think they are inappropriate when talking about loss of loved ones, but I prefer to keep my private family images private. I hope using these yard decoration images have not offended any one as I express my opinion on how we adults might talk to our kids about death and dying when faced with Halloween