During a recent park outing I saw an elderly Asian man playing with his granddaughter, and I immediately was overcome with sadness over the loss of my father, who died last year. Before I knew it, tears were leaking out of my eyes and Laurel was saying “Uh oh, Mommy sad! Mommy crying!” When I told Laurel I was crying because I missed my “Aboji” (father, in Korean) she said “Aboji, up high in the sky!” at which point I nearly needed to crawl into the tube slide to compose myself.
It’s difficult for me to imagine that Laurel actually remembers her interactions with my father; she was only 10 months old when he died, although we did see him 2-3 times a week during the last 6 months of his life. Obviously, at that time we couldn't converse with Laurel about death, but ever since she became verbal enough to ask about my father in pictures or inquire about him at “Aboji’s party” (recent one year memorial service) we have had to think more about how to communicate the concept of death to Laurel.
Among the many resources offered to patients and caregivers, Hospice provides a detailed article on how to talk to children about death; ParentCenter (a branch of BabyCenter) offers suggestions on how to approach the subject with preschoolers and older kids.