Post by Cheli Blasco
We knew our third child, our daughter Luna, was going to die before she was born. We didn’t know how long exactly she would live inside my body.
Of all the things that scared us (and there were many) the one that bewildered us most was how to explain her life and death to our sons, then 3 and 5-years-old.
We tried to be truthful with them always and to say things in words, they would understand.
Our main goal was to do both of these without scaring them. We wanted them to be able to process the experience gently.
This is simply our experience, unique to us and our beliefs.
Unique to our boys and their personalities.
Unique to who each of us is and was at the time.
These are some of the things we learned along the way:
1. Deliberate use of language:
We chose to say that Luna’s body was growing only to live inside my body.
Her body was not for living in the world. We were mindful never to use the word “sick.”
Mainly, because we don’t think she was sick, we think this is who she is.
To us, the use of the word “sick” has two drawbacks: firstly, sickness is usually a condition that is treatable and hopefully reversible.
Secondly, it is something that happens to all of us, them included, at one time or another.
If we said Luna was sick, and she would die, then the possibility of them dying when they were sick would become real and very scary.
They might also have thought that she could be healed. Which, in her case, was not a possibility.
Whenever they asked about Luna, we talked about it. We shared everything we knew (in a language they could understand).
If they asked why we were crying, we told them we were crying because we were sad Luna would die.
We also told our story truthfully and delicately to strangers, so that even when they overheard us, it was the truth.
During my pregnancy, my younger son would play that he was pregnant.
My older son would listen to the baby’s heartbeat with a Doppler. They talked about whether the baby was going to die or live.
They drew pictures for Luna, about Luna. They made little gifts for her.
We did a lot of belly painting.
They made up songs for Luna, they kissed her in the belly and told her secrets.
Play was essential in helping them deal with and figure out how to feel about everything that was happening.
We were very aware never of censuring their games, to be as involved as they asked us to be and to accept what came from them with gratitude and love.
4. Explaining death itself:
My youngest son needed time to understand the irreversibility of death.
We had recently buried a dead bird, which he interpreted as having planted the bird, which would later grow and live again. We just explained, every time he brought it up, that when a body is dead, it cannot live again.
If he insisted (which he did), we would seldom end the conversation with “I don’t think so, honey” and a big hug.
Eventually, he grasped the concept.
This was the hardest topic for us to talk about. Carly’s beautiful article came out the day after our oldest asked to discuss this.
When they asked what would happen to Luna’s body, we said it would become ash. For a while, that was sufficient.
Then our oldest asked how exactly it would become ash. My heart stopped.
Luckily, my husband was on it (even though I was darting him daggers with my eyes to shut up… he was right there, with honesty and empathy).
He told our sons how our bodies are made up mostly of water. When a person dies, they place their body in a special room to help the water evaporate.
Then the body is dry like a leaf, and it becomes powdery ash. This was a sufficient explanation.
Luna was born 9 months ago. Our boys speak of her often, they mention her in games, they draw pictures for her and pick flowers, rocks, sticks and bark for her – everything that is treasured in their worlds, is also for Luna.
We talk of her often. They ask how big her body was when she died, whether she would have liked swords or if her favorite color might be blue or green (blue, we think).
We all talk about Luna freely and lovingly; she is another member of our family.
We say her name even when it might mean an explanation in front of company.
This is our family of five.