That's all gotten better lately. In fact, we've been able to watch the Harry Potter movies with her, which even 6 months ago she couldn't have tolerated. She is now able to identify that as fantasy and cope with the fear that it gives her as entertainment.
This week she and her sister got into a tiff at bedtime. It was insignificant, but left her feeling upset. Which prevented sleep. She got tucked in twice, shed a few tears, and I thought she was off to la la land.
I was in my living room, knitting and unwinding as I do at the end of the day, and she walked over to me, looked me straight in the eye and said,
"How can I overcome my fear of dying?"
I made her ask me twice more, at first thinking she was joking. She had a small smirk on her face, but she does that when she's embarrassed. She sat on my lap and we talked about 15 minutes, and she asked to fall asleep there.
It was the first time since Henry died that one of my children fell asleep on my lap. It was really nice. As she pointed out before she fell asleep, she's too big for me to carry, so I had to wake her to take her back up to bed.
I found her question so profound. Of course that's what all the natural disaster angst has been about. I just didn't know she realized it. She said to me, "I think when you are dead you're just gone," and I didn't argue with her. She was afraid of her 9th birthday coming next week because it meant she was older, and therefore closer to dying. And she asked me about Henry's room. She didn't specify what she was getting at, and I didn't press...I think a lot of the time she doesn't know, and I didn't want to push her. But I think his room bothers her. I feel so blind to that...it makes me sad to see his empty room and his ashes on his bookshelf every time I go up the stairs...but his door is right next to hers. She sees it more than I do. How vapid of me.
I didn't give her answers; I don't have them. I told her that even grownups are afraid of dying. I told her that I don't know what we will do with Henry's room. I told her I get sad and scared too, and try to think about other things. I told her that's why I knit so much. She thought that was funny. I wonder if it would have been easier to have some answers: afterlife, souls, heaven....but those answers beget new questions as well.
My middling is a thinker. She always has been. I'd like to think that she gets that at least in part from me. It's fun to see her brain continue to mature, to let her cognitive abilities catch up to what she tries to understand. When she asked me that question, I couldn't breathe for a second. But I'm proud of her.