Our expert says:
This is actually more common than most people realize or expect. The death of your niece is pobably very relevant - and it gave him proof that even kids die, and not only old people ( though that is also frightening, because Mom and Dad are usually classified by kids as "old people".
Children's view of death, and indeed the ways in which they are even capable of understanding it, develop with age. Early on, life is associated with moving, and death with being motionless. Death is seen as undesirable, but not necessarily, at first, as irreversible - and they may be distressed to discover that someone who has died will NEVER come back to tea.
It is apt to include some discussion of the family's religious views, though these are often less comfortiong than we expect - children's capacity to understand and be comforted by the rather abstract religious views we offer them, in contrast to their very realistic and practical view of things, is significant.
Oddly, only this mornin, a friend sent me some children's comments she had collected. One of them was as follows : " A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. 'Daddy, what happened to him?' the son asked. 'He died and went to Heaven,' the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, 'Did God throw him back down?'
You're a really good mom ; continue to use what opportunities these distresses provide to comfort him. Always remember to explore what he thinks about death, etc., before offering your views - sometimes you discover they have extraordinary ideas you might otherwise never hear of.
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