Our expert says:
There are a number of really good books around about this, one of the first was by my old friend Rabbi Earl Grollman. How children understand death vaies with age. Early on they see life as about moving, and death is when you stop moving. So smoke and trees may seem alive. Then they may see it as temporary and reversible.
It's worth as a start asking the child what SHE thinks death is, and then correcting the miscvonceptions very gently.
In the example you quote, you presumably need to also discuss why, even if he were fully alive, she would never marry Michael Jackson, and help her distinguish between what she thinks she'd like to do and what she could actually do.
You can then discuss MJ's death gently, too --- that it is NOT reversible, and not like going to sleep ( that's a bad explanation some parents use, which often simply results in a child becoming scaedc to go to sleep ) -- that it is when he and his body are so sick that it can't carry on working, and that he cannot wake up again.
Follow her questions. She needs to explore the fact that she can only see MJ in pictures and films which were recorded while he was alive, and there is no longer any real and living MJ she could go and see anywhere.
Its a good sign of a lively and intelligent mind that the child follows each response with a further question.
I think one of the main reasons we as adults find it hard to talk with children about death, and even about sex, is that we are not sure of the answers ourselves.
Its worth while talking about these topics with your children, because you don't have any choice in which they would not think about them and discuss this with other people, including other children who might give them very unhelpful ideas. Unless a child knows that ANYTHING can be discussed with mom and dad, they fall prey to being misled and frightened or exploited by others.
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