We were watching the family's new favorite show last night, Dogtown. It's a documentary show about a facility dedicated to rehabbing and placing damaged dogs. Everyone in my house can enjoy it, and it cuts down on the Hannah Montana re-runs (tho greatly increases the pleas for a puppy.)
Bruno, one of the dogs, died. My elder daughter grabbed the remote and started to fast forward to a happier scene, but I stopped her. I figured that this might be a good way to talk about it with the kids, without talking about it. Quite poetically, the dog died of a brain tumor (which the kids didn't catch).
Henry didn't seem to follow what was happening until the dog's burial. He asked me when the dog would be alive again, and cried when I told him it wouldn't. We haven't avoided the subject of death, but it's not exactly dinner table fodder either. Yet another place that religious belief would really come in handy for me.
How much does a 4 year old understand about death? I was sorry that the show upset him, but it reinforced to me that he's not ready to discuss what will happen to him. I have occasionally felt like it's something that we should be doing, at least when he gets sicker, but my mother gut instinct (which I have learned to listen to) tells me not to so far.
He was inconsolable for a time, until I realized that he was upset about the dog's collar which was left on the grave as a marker. He really wanted for another dog to use the collar. As soon as I assured him of that, he stopped crying and hasn't mentioned it since. Henry's style is to ruminate for a while before discussing, so I expect it to show up again in conversation.
For now, I can't think of a way to make death and burial anything less than terrifying to a concrete thinker. I think I'll follow my mommy gut and lie to him.