My Five-Year-Old’s Thoughts on Death

Shortly after her grandfather passed away last year, my youngest daughter set her grief aside quickly, almost as if nothing happened.  This worried me at first, but then her mourning exploded one night in heart-wrenching sobs as she came to terms with the fact that her grandfather, who she called “Papa,” was never coming back.  She continued to sob at night for most of the next several weeks, and then gradually leveled off until she could talk about him fondly without such searing pain.

They used to like to bird watch together.  He loved the cardinals that came into our yard and bought a bird feeder for the deck, so that we could watch them from our kitchen table.  One day, when my youngest girl saw two cardinals at the feeder, she remarked, “Papa would have liked this.”  She thought about that for a moment, and then added bluntly, “…If he were alive,” as if she had to explain the obvious for us.

Then one day when I was melancholy and missing my father, my little one comforted me with, “It’s not like he’s in Oceana or anything.”

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