I didn’t realise until I asked some friends to write down conversations they’d heard Saskia having with their children, quite the extent to which Saskia associates other Daddies being at work with her Daddy being in heaven.
It is really fascinating to see her mind piecing things together. Liv remembers a conversation between Saskia and Bertie at her house last spring. One of the children asked where I was and Liv told them I was at work. There were a couple of exchanges between Sas and Bertie before she said, ‘My Daddy used to go to work, in heaven’. Then as Liv recalls, they went back to the more pressing business of pretending to spit yoghurt at each other and shouting POO!
Also in the spring, Lizzie remembers Sas and Elliot playing ‘house’ – Saskia was sweeping up and Elliot announced he was off to work (internal groan at these hopelessly stereotyped play choices!). Lizzie overheard Sas musing to herself ‘Maybe that’s where my Daddy’s gone. No, he’s gone to heaven.’
At this time she was obviously getting quite mixed up between her Daddy being gone, and other Daddies being out at work. But by late summer, she’d figured out that they definitely weren’t the same thing, to the extent that she was very emphatic with both Emmeline and Jack, as I wrote in the last post, saying ‘Your Daddy has gone to work, my Daddy has gone to heaven.’
At this point I think I should explain our use of the word ‘heaven’. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you might remember the post where I explained my extensive deliberations about how to talk to Sas about what had happened to Daddy. I’m not a believer in heaven myself, so seriously baulked at the idea of using the word. However, at that time I didn’t feel comfortable about just saying ‘he’s dead’, and also needed something to say to the glaring question of ‘where is he?’. To me it’s a convenient catch all word that I use to mean the ‘after-life’ (or the what happens after life, which I shall in time tell her is something nobody really knows about for sure, though people have lots of ideas…and here are the best ones…).
In the meantime, since I wrote that post, I have found myself able to use the ‘d’ word after all (though ‘he’s died’/’he died’ rather than ‘he’s dead’ – softer, isn’t it?). Several times, quite a while ago now, Sas would ask where Daddy had gone, and I might say he was in heaven, but I’d also say ‘he died’. Numerous times the conversation would stop there and Sas would move happily onto another topic. But quite recently she wanted to know more, and she asked why he’d died. I explained that he’d been very poorly, and his body wasn’t able to get better, and so he died. Again, as always, she accepted this answer and just carried on playing.
Since then if we’ve talked about people dying (like Ben’s Nan whose burial service Saskia and I went to about a month ago), I’ve tried to emphasise that people only usually die when they get very old, as I don’t want her to worry that someone she knows is going to die just because they’re ill. So far though I haven’t seen any evidence that she’s thinking that anyway.
Right, will leave it there. Am on a roll and loads more to come. But shorter better for you too I’m sure. We’ve all got Sunday night telly to watch!