Monday, 2 September 2013

Difficult Conversations

It was the first day back as a P2 for Abigail this week. When I picked her up on the first day we had a chat about things went. Fine, said Abigail. I did some playing and Grace Long's mummy died; not the sort of thing I was expecting. Once we'd established this was real (there was a note) and not a misunderstanding, the questions came.

When are you going to die, mummy?

What happens when you die, mummy?

I don't want you to die. I'm scared of dying....

Difficult questions. But important ones. We had a talk through what had happened and headed home for some quiet time. Abigail headed straight for the book case and pulled out a couple of books she wanted to read: The Heart in the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers, and the Gift by Carol Ann Duffy. I have to admit to feeling a little relief that we had books that did help understand the more difficult things in life.

The Heart and the Bottle, if you've never come across it, is the tale of a girl who spends time with her Grandpa, learning and asking impossible questions. Then one day, his chair is empty. In order to protect her heart the girl takes it out and puts it in a bottle. Her heart is safe, but she loses all her joy in life and grows up missing a part of herself. One day she meets a small girl on the beach who helps her break her heart out of the bottle and help her deal with her grief and bring back her curiosity about the world. Abigail was able to take her own meaning and comfort from the illustrations and there was plenty for us to talk about and try to make sense of together.

The Gift is a book that before this week, I had read once and not really understood. In fact, I was quite shocked by the way mortality was approached and wasn't sure if I would ever read it again. But this time I found a new meaning it. At some point we all have to face our own mortality, and it's usually the death of a grandparent that a child experiences first. What Carol Ann Duffy does so cleverly here is to introduce death as part of the fulfilment of life; death is not something to be seen in isolation and feared, rather to be embraced as part of the circle of life. Death is never easy, but it doesn't have to be hidden. 

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