Today while leaving the park Iris noticed a dead squirrel lying under a tree. "Look mama!" she called, pointing it out to me. I steered her around it, reminding her not to touch it. "Is he sleeping?" she asked. Oh, boy. I should have said yes.
"No, honey, the squirrel isn't sleeping, it's dead."
"Oh. Well, is he going to wake up?"
"No, he's not. He's in squirrel heaven."
"Squirrel heaven? Is that right under the tree?"
Oh, crap. "No, it's in heaven, like, um, where Lily went."
"Well, but he's right there. Under the tree."
"Yes, his body is, but, um, his spirit is in squirrel heaven. Like his thoughts and stuff."
She watches him closely as I buckle her in to her car seat. Three crows have surrounded the dead squirrel by this point and are pecking at it, making the body jump about a bit.
"He's waking up!" Iris says, very excitedly.
"No, honey, the crows are just trying to move him."
So, yeah, I didn't exactly hit that one out of the ball park. It is hard for me to figure out what her level of understanding is. Sometimes it's actually much greater than I realized and sometimes it's much more shallow. I don't want to scare her with too much information, but at the same time, I don't want to confuse her with too little.
Anyone tackle the death idea yet?
We did a little bit when Lily died last fall. I suppose it was a little different then because she didn't see Lily dead. We just told Iris that Lily wasn't coming home and had gone to doggy heaven. She asked about Lily quite a bit at first, and actually still talks about her from time to time, but we didn't get in to too much detail about it. We read a book called "Dog Heaven" and it talks about what dogs do when they get to heaven. I presume that Iris thinks Lily just went off to live there. Sometimes I do, too, I suppose.