Chapter 2: Death is part of life

Teachable moments

I've been there
Omo talks about death being a fact of life in her home country, Nigeria.(3:22)Video transcript

A family movie night. The death of a family pet. A dead bird by the side of the road. The Terry Fox Run. The death of a neighbour or family friend. Scenes of war, earthquakes and floods that flash across our screens. These all provide moments where we can teach children about the natural cycle of life and death.

  • Do you see that dead fly on the windowsill? Flies don’t live very long.
  • Look at that raccoon on the road. It’s been hit by a car and killed. Its body was very badly hurt and it died.
  • Our cat Sebastian is getting old and his heart is not working well. The vet says he’s in pain. None of the medicines they have can help him. They think it would be kinder to help him to die with special medicine they have. Shall we say goodbye to him together? I’m feeling very sad for Sebastian and for us.
  • You remember that your friend Salima’s mother has cancer? I just learned that she died yesterday. Salima must be feeling very sad. Would you like to know more about what happened? What can we do to show her we care?
  • Yes, there was a really big earthquake in Japan. I wonder what you've heard about it? 

Children’s natural curiosity may lead to many questions. To help them learn about dying and death in healthy ways, answer these openly and praise them for thinking and asking about such important things. When you don’t have an answer, be honest with them about that. These conversations:

  • Teach them that it’s okay to talk about dying and death.
  • Encourage them to explore what life events mean to them and to other people in their lives and community.

Offer lessons in compassion, gratitude, connection, spirituality, politics and all the feelings that naturally arise in the face of death.