These Widow's Shoes


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I knew the day was coming…

…and today was it. Saskia asked ‘Where’s Daddy gone?’. She asked it first this morning. We were sat in the garden with my mum-in-law and she just said it, apropos of nothing. I stared at her for ages, tongue tied and baffled about why she was suddenly asking, and unsure whether she was actually asking what it sounded like. I’ve forgotten what happened next – I think my mum in law fielded with something vague and Sas quickly went back to bouncing on her new trampoline. Toddlers can be so unnerving.

This evening she asked again – this time she was more insistent and there was no doubt what she was asking. She looked at the picture of Ben next to the dining table and said “My Daddy”, then “Where’s Daddy gone?…Where’s Daddy gone Mummy?…Daddy lost”.

Well, though I’ve thought and thought about what I should say, I hadn’t come up with something that sounded right, so today I had nothing prepared and blundered through a number of things that came into my head…”He had to go away…He still loves us very much…He’s taking care of you” were all things I said I think. With her three-second attention span she was already thinking about something else by the time I’d garbled these words – she’d noticed some toy or other – and that was the end of it.

However, I suspect that having formed the question in her mind now, and verbalised it, it will be coming up again. I really have to figure out what to say. It’s so hard – I don’t believe in heaven, but already I’ve fallen into the trap of talking as though I do to Saskia. I want to be able to tell her what I believe – that Ben has gone but his love lives on in us and the people who’s lives he touched. But she wouldn’t understand that – it’s far too abstract. Should I say ‘Daddy’s died’? Her only knowledge of death and dying is from insects in the garden – would she be scared or upset by this comparison, or would she actually be matter of fact and simply accept it? Judging from the books I’ve read on explaining death to children, it seems important not to skirt over the basic facts of death – ie that the body stops working. So maybe at this stage I should go for the actual facts and not worry too much about the abstract stuff.

I just don’t know – it’s a really hard thing to do. I guess I’ll just have to feel my way and hope I don’t upset or confuse her.

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