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How to Talk to Children About Death, by Andrew Roe

1.

Try to make it sound like you are confident, like you know the answers even though you do not. Realize you will probably not know what to say. You will stumble and fail and get everything wrong and make it more complicated than it has to be and cause greater misunderstandings, both short term and long term. You will say dumb things, very dumb things. But you will have to say something. 

2.

When you’re asked questions like “Where is heaven?” understand that you will pause. You will pause mightily, significantly. You will curse yourself for not having come up with a ready-made, soul-satisfying answer. And you will start to ramble, prefacing what you’re about to say by pointing out that, well, not everyone believes in heaven, because people believe different things and have different ideas and different, like, conceptions and interpretations, and then you’ll go on to say that heaven, if you believe in it, and it’s OK either way, if you believe or if you don’t—heaven is supposedly way up high in the sky, past where airplanes fly, above the clouds and not there when you look, it’s something you can’t see. 

“What if you have binoculars?” your four-year-old son asks. 

He’s a master of the follow-up question, lawyerly inquisition, the eliciting of deeper information that, increasingly, you are unable or reluctant to give. 

“With binoculars,” he continues, “would you see heaven then?”

“No,” you say. “Not even then.” 

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