On Death and Dying

March 18, 2008 at 10:12 am 5 comments

     This past fall, C started obsessing about death. For months, the questions came out of nowhere in the middle of conversations and in the middle of the night. They came in the car and during dinner. The fear knew no bounds. It grew so all-encompassing that when his teacher read Charlotte’s Web to the class, she and I arranged for him to be in speech therapy when Charlotte died. During a tearful missive about how he loves being 6, it finally came out that he does not want to be 7 because it is one year closer to dying.     

     I finally figured out where it came from months after it began. He had watched a few moments of “Finding Nemo” early last fall, and hadn’t wanted to watch it since. This was no surprise to me as he has no tolerance for movies. Yet he asked to watch it again, so we sat down to watch it together. Early on, when the shark comes and eats Nemo’s mother, it prompted a major meltdown and the proclamation by C that Nemo would never be watched again in our house. We discussed it and I told him about the happy ending, but he wouldn’t budge. Sadly, Nemo has been banished.

     A child’s comprehension of death is no more skewed than our own, but the vulnerability surrounding it is at its most innocent. It’s a simple desire to be here, to be with everyone, not to be gone. I don’t suspect for C it has anything to do with fear of the unknown; it is, at its core, the fear of simply no longer being a part of everything.


Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , .

Persevera-what? A fun day

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jesch  |  March 18, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    love the ending.
    nicely done.

  • 2. lookingforlifeshumor  |  March 18, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    My son has been asking alot about death and dying and how it all works – he is so curious. Thankfully there has been little fear involved in these chats and we’ve all made sure that we’re as open and honest about it. I’ve admitted that I am a little scared because I don’t know what heaven will be like, and he has accepted this. I think it has helped him feel better about any fears he may have about his own death or my parent’s or my death. I don’t know – but I am glad that he feels we can talk about it 🙂

    I wish I knew where the fear came from – probably Nemo, because it is kind of scary at that point. Whenever he brings it up I talk about heaven and how wonderful it will be. “I don’t know” does not work at the moment, so I find myself infusing heaven with things he will love and that will be comforting. I think had he gone through this a little later in his developmental life it would’ve been less scary for him, but it came with a big move, a completely different school, the onset of separation anxiety (at 6!) etc., so I think it all combined together. Oiy!

  • 3. hfamom  |  March 19, 2008 at 1:47 am

    J’s definition of death is when you can’t come back. He doesn’t get emotional about it but talks about our old lady beagle, Millie, who died last summer on a regular basis.

    It’s such a hard thing to talk to our kids about since we can’t understand it either… you’re doing a heck of a good job with it! Thanks for the pointers!

    Our dog had cancer last summer and we thought we were going to lose him, but he pulled through with chemo. But we know it’s just a matter of time. Fortunately, the death obsession has passed, although it rears its head every once in awhile. But I know when Parker dies that will bring it all up again. Obviously I can’t protect C from these things – I just wish they could be easier on him. Sometimes he just has the weight of the world on his shoulders!

  • 4. FXSmom  |  March 19, 2008 at 11:15 am

    I always was curious about how kids would react to that. You are the first mom that I have seen address it. It did seem traumatizing to me and I’m an adult. I can see why he banished it.

    It’s sad that he is able to comprehend death and is fearing birthdays. Good job on helping him. That is not easy.

    I know – my Mom and I watched it later that night, and I’m frankly glad he didn’t watch it – there are some really scary parts! We had the same problem with all the holiday movies – Frosty melting, Rudolph and the Abominable Snowman, etc. If there was any hint of anything scary, he wanted to stop. So I might have the only 6 year old on the planet who hasn’t seen Nemo, but that’s OK!

  • 5. Priorities « What We Need  |  July 24, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    […] 24, 2008      C has moved on from his fear of death (see here) into the possibilities of how intriguing the idea of heaven is. In order to soothe his fears, […]


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