Death Is My Greatest Fear, And My Kids Want To Talk About It Constantly

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grimI learned the truth about death — that it is permanent and doesn’t include a heaven (my personal belief) — when I was around seven-years-old. I still remember sitting in my Brooklyn bedroom, watching the sunset, thinking about how I was going to die one day and be gone forever. I was emo before there was emo. Now, I have six-year-old twins who are as matter of fact about death as a mortician, and they want to talk about it constantly. I believe this is what psychologists call, “exposure therapy.”

Death is and has always been my greatest fear. And I mean my greatest fear as in I can’t start to really think about it because if I really think about it I start having a panic attack. I used to have full-fledged panic attacks about it where I would hyperventilate and curl up in the fetal position. I don’t have those anymore, because I make myself stop thinking about it before I get there. That’s healthy, right? Right! I have yet to find anything better.

My mother told me that she stopped being afraid of death when she had children. I hoped that it would be the same with me, and that once I had my kids I would achieve some kind of zen acceptance about death that came with being part of the circle of life. I didn’t. I still can’t think about it. But now I have to talk about it nearly every day with my kids, who understand death in theory, but don’t yet understand the permanent gone-ness of it. They rattle off questions about death like we’re talking about the weather.

“Hey Mom, when you die can Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Ben take care of us?”

“But you can’t love me forever because you’re going to die one day, you know.”

“I’m going to be really sad when you die, Mom. And you’re going to be really sad when Grandma dies. And I bet she was really sad when her mom died. And I bet…”

I have to say, it changes the mood of a day when you’re reminded of your own mortality in the toy section of Target.

Maybe when we have to get down to the nitty gritty of it and I have to be brave about the subject of death for someone else, then I’ll find a way to accept it. I don’t get to be afraid of death in front of my kids, so maybe when I tell them that it’s just a part of life but that it’s okay to be scared, I’ll be able to listen to my own words. Perhaps when I tell them that the key is to live your life in the best way you know how, to be good to yourself and others, and to grab as much joy as you can get your hands on, I’ll start to believe it myself.

Or maybe I’ll just be an excellent liar. Or, maybe they’ll figure out a way to keep people from dying by then and this will all be moot. I mean, not all people. But me, certainly. Yeah, I think I’m just going to rely on that one.

(Photo: IndigoLT / Shutterstock)