Putting Sam to bed a few weeks ago I told him I loved him and would always be there when he needed me (he was a bit reluctant to go to sleep that night for some reason, hence the reassurances) and he responded “but, don’t cry when I die.”
Needless to say, that knocked me for a loop. It took everything I had to keep it together and talk to Sam without scaring him. I knew if I broke down he would know the truth and I couldn’t frighten him like that.
Since that night Sam has been talking a lot about his own death. We knew this would happen if Sam survived long enough, we knew eventually he would become more aware of his own mortality, but honestly, we were hoping it would never come.
It is one thing to be aware that you are going to lose your child, it is something else entirely for your child to be aware; it adds an extra layer of anguish. Watching your child worry and fear the future is excruciating, especially when you know it is not something that will pass, it will not get better.
We have always been very open and honest with our kids so how can I comfort him without lying to him? How do I reassure a child that it is all going to be ok when it isn’t? How can I make him feel better when I am terrified myself?
In the end I have been keeping it vague. He kept pressing, saying “but I am going to live for a long time?” and I say “Yes, you are.”; a long time is relative right? He asks “I might live to 100 right?” and I answer “Yes, you might.”; you never know right? He is still very adamant that we can’t cry when he dies. That one I lie about. I tell him I wouldn’t. The few times I told him I would cry it very much upset him, so that is a lie I have no choice but to tell.