The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #65: Kids Ask About Death

Parenting truth: kids ask crazy questions.

My kid’s latest kick? Death. She asks when I’m gonna die, when she’s gonna die. Will we be buried together? How many WAYS are there to die? No, I mean it, Mommy. How MANY?

Most kids go through a death phase, and often it starts *young*. So I found someone with the magical combination of death-expert and former-preschool-teacher to answer kids’ questions about death.

sarah-troop-skeleton-squareSarah Troop, pictured left (the live one) is the executive director of The Order of the Good Death, a self-described group of funeral industry professionals, academics, and artists “exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality.” You may know their fantastic video series Ask a Mortician. Sarah researches answers for those videos.

Tune in to this episode to hear Sarah’s answers to YOUR kids’ death questions. And her first time speaking publicly about her deep inner conflict over her own pregnancy loss.

More by Sarah Troop
Sarah co-founded Death & the Maiden, a blog about women and death, and founded Nourishing Death, a blog about death and food.

Sarah at Barts Pathology Museum in London

Sarah at Barts Pathology Museum in London

Sarah's homemade Victorian funeral biscuits

Sarah’s homemade Victorian funeral biscuits

Sarah has also written for the website Modern Loss, and was a contributing author for Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss, a book inspired by the film Return to Zero, about stillbirth.

Part of Sarah’s role at The Order of the Good Death is to speak at their “Death Salons“—events where Good-Death-ers share their knowledge about mortality through lectures and art. Their next Salon is in October at the Mütter Museum (my favorite museum of all time!), where Sarah will be talking about the unique rituals and beliefs surrounding the death of children in Mexico during the early 20th century. Sarah tells me this topic is close to her heart. “As a Mexican-American,” she says, “I talk and write a lot about the ways my culture engages with death by making it a part of life.”

Makes death sound less scary, right? Yeah, that’s why we got Sarah for this one.

Resources for Easing Anxiety About Death
For young children with questions about death, there are lots of picture books on the subject. Sarah curated her favorites for us in this post.

For parents experiencing anxiety about your own death, listen to our episode The Mortality of Motherhood with war correspondent Kelly McEvers. She *gets* it.

Also check out my Q&A with grief counselor Joseph Primo on talking to kids about death.

And if you feel like your anxiety, or your child’s anxiety, is overwhelming, therapists are there to help. A good place to start looking for a good match is Psychology Today. Sarah found her match in Megan Divine, a licensed, clinical mental health therapist who specializes in death, loss and grief and she is an extraordinary individual to boot. Megan’s website, Refuge In Grief, also has a lot of great information about grief and loss.

Resources for Bereaved Parents
Sarah says that these resources were invaluable to her after her pregnancy loss:

The MISS Foundation provides support, education and counseling for bereaved parents. There are message boards where you can talk to parents who have been through similar experiences. You can also speak privately with a counselor.

Reconceiving Loss is a website where bereaved parents can share their stories, watch videos and webinars, and submit questions to an in-house doctor. There is also a private resource center that features guided meditations and suggestions on how to work through your grief using art, photography, writing, and music.

Standing Still is an online magazine for bereaved parents with sections for siblings, fathers, and grandparents.

Resources for Any Kind of Loss
Sarah found a death doula to be incredibly helpful through her loss. For baby loss, find one at Baby Loss Family Advisors; everyone else can go to National Home Funeral Alliance. Sarah adds that many death doulas are not officially listed anywhere, so you should also try Googling your location and the type of doula you’re seeking, to see if there’s someone near you. If you don’t need someone to be physically present, you can also find death doulas who will counsel you over the phone or Skype.

Finally, Sarah suggests Teamotions Tea. These are teas created to provide emotional support during loss and grief. The company was founded by a mother whose twins died shortly after birth. Sarah says these teas helped her tremendously after her loss. And they are safe for kids to drink, too.

What questions do YOUR kids ask about death?
Or what are your your own anxieties about dying? Please share them in the comments. Also seeking solidarity for Sarah in her brave sharing of her own story.

Top photo: Johnson Cameraface; Sarah with skeleton: Sarah Waldorf; Sarah at Barts Pathology Museum: Megan Rosenbloom; Victorian funeral biscuits: Elli Papayanopoulos