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Talking to babies about death


A few days ago I had my first proper chat to Kaia about death.

I know she’s only 8 months old, but I figure which birthday is it when we suddenly start talking to them about important topics? About stuff that matters?  Which day in their life do we suddenly decide they can understand and need to know?

Why not from the get go?

Because I chat to her all day about all sorts of things.  She  may or may not understand any of what I say to her – on a purely conscious level anyway – but that doesn’t stop me, or anyone else.  So I think it’s never too soon to start having the ‘big’ conversations – that is the conversations that actually wouldn’t be quite so big if we started including them early on instead of waiting ’till they’re older and can understand’ (which usually really means ‘until they’re older because I really don’t want/don’t know how to talk about that right now’).

So there we were, in the street, looking at a dead seagull on the road.

We stood above him and both had a good look. I didn’t get closer than that because all she’d want to do is shove that dead seagull in her mouth.

And as we walked away I explained that it was dead, how it probably died (it was lying near a hamburger patty on the road so…), that death happens to everyone, that it is normal and natural, and what I believe it means/why it happens/where the seagull might have gone (all according to my own beliefs of course).

And then we went to the park for a swing.

You probably know that we need to talk about death more. A lot more.

You may have figured out that a lot of society’s damaging fear of death comes from it being inadvertently fed to us as children by people who were afraid themselves (and didn’t know any different).

I believe the world would be a radically different place if we could raise our next generation without the culture of death denial that plagues this one. If we could raise ours kids to not be, as Stephen Levine put it, ‘so afraid of death that they still have one foot in the womb’.

What is the best age to start talking to kids about death?

Age now.

And when is the best time to start thinking about it yourself?

Now.  Yup, now would be perfect.