Talking to Children About Death
This post contains spoilers for Doctor Who, so stop reading if you haven’t finished the season but watch the show.
We caught up on most of the season’s end of Doctor Who this weekend. We still have one episode to go.
We knew what was coming, so the twins kept putting off seeing the last three episodes. But they finally felt ready-ish to watch it all go down, so we got into our pyjamas and piled into our bed and watched.
It was sad. It was sickeningly sad because there was enough time for the characters to have regrets (or… not have regrets because one of them unrealistically had zero problem with what had happened… Really?) and say goodbye and think about what was about to happen. We all cried. Well, three of us cried, but I like to think that the fourth member of our family was crying on the inside. We all liked Clara and change is always hard, even when you know that River Song is coming.
The episode after “Face the Raven” was harder because it began with a concept that is simple and obvious but makes you swallow hard nonetheless when you hear it stated aloud: from the moment you are born, death is written into your story. We all have death hanging over our head every single second of our life. We know it is coming and there is no way to stop it.
If that doesn’t make you want to pull the blankets over your head, I don’t know what will.
The kids were sad after the episodes, not as much about Clara but more thinking about death in general. We cuddled and talked about how hard life was knowing that we have to lose people we love.
I have no regrets that we let them watch Doctor Who. I don’t like it when they’re sad, and I certainly don’t want them to obsess about death, but I also don’t think it does them any favours to pretend that death isn’t a part of life; that death is a very permanent state.
I think it’s better to let them realize that because it is permanent and irreversible, we should do everything in our power to protect people from death when we can such as ensuring they have food and shelter and health care. We should work to avoid war and support efforts to reduce violence, both of which are a waste of human life. That, as humans, we should do our best to help other humans so we can all actively work to put off death as long as possible. Everyone should get a fair shot of living as long as they can.
I would rather have them sad because they lost a favourite character than have them indifferent playing a video game where they are the aggressor, blowing off a human non-player character’s head. I would rather they consider the enormity of death and therefore actively work to help others than minimize death and have them dehumanized to the point where they can hear another person is suffering and not have it affect their day.
I don’t think it’s a bad thing to cry. It’s what happens when you have a heart.
It’s good to have a touchstone, a relationship you can think about to put other things you might feel dismissive about in perspective. I can always explain to them, “This person in danger is someone else’s Clara, and we need to help that ‘Clara’ because someone else out there is that ‘Clara’s’ Doctor who will mourn her for 4.5 billion years.” They saw the look on the Doctor’s face. They saw his fist hitting the wall 4.5 billion times. They know what love is.
Side note: Tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday. So get writing, please.