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Dutchess_III's avatar

What would you tell a 6 year old who said they want to die so he could see his old dog?

Asked by Dutchess_III (44082points) 1 month ago

Let’s assume both Mom and Dad are atheist and don’t spin tales about heaven or hell.
What would you say to the child?

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43 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

If it’s my child I would tell them when we die we probably don’t get to see our dead dogs, and when you die you can never come back to life. You will no longer be here with your family and friends.

Side note: There was a story years ago of a very young girl stepping in front of a train in Florida to be with her dead mom. Right before committing suicide she told her siblings she wanted to die to be with mommy.

rebbel's avatar

If there’s no tales of heaven and hell, where’s the dead dog at then?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know that they’ve explained that he’s just gone. He isn’t anywhere.
But if if it makes a child feel better to think he’s in Heaven I’d leave it alone.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I’d just tell him I feel the dog is fine, and he may see him again someday. And leave it at that. You really can’t philosophize with a six year old. And I’m not in the business of telling adults, children, or anyone what does or doesn’t happen after death. Because I don’t even know myself.

JLeslie's avatar

Are we talking to someone else’s child? Usually, I would tell the child to ask their parents. Or, that we (the child and I) can ask their parents together.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Your own child.

kritiper's avatar

Tell him the truth. That there is no afterlife.

anniereborn's avatar

You can be an atheist and also Buddhist. Why not tell him about reincarnation?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Kids believe in magic @kriptner. Usually they grow out of it. If it gives him comfort now, why not let him believe it?
I think reincarnation is only for humans, not animals. Kinda like heaven.
Anyway, I don’t believe in reincarnation either, tho it’s a pleasant idea.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

@kritiper I don’t know that that IS the truth. Any more than I would tell him the dog is on some cloud playing a cosmic dog whistle to the accompaniment of harps. My truth would be I feel the dog is fine. If you’re right at least it’s not in any pain, if the Jesus groupies are right, it’s still not
in any pain..as far as seeing it again someday, hell it’s a six year old child in grieving. Big whoop if I tell a small fib, if it makes him feel better. I’ve heard of worse atrocities

anniereborn's avatar

@Dutchess_III Is this YOUR six year old kid? Does it matter if you believe in reincarnation or not? And who says it’s just for humans ?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t believe in reincarnation. Why would I lie to any kid, mine or any other, and say that’s the answer, when, as @NomoreLock out said we don’t know.
Are worms reincarnated? Rolly Pollies? Frogs? Tadpoles? Mosquito larve? It’s absurd.

JLeslie's avatar

The more I think about this, maybe just say to the kid, “I understand that feeling, you must really miss your dog.” Then see if he/she wants a hug. Probably, the child is sad and trying to get through it.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

@JLeslie That would be fine as well. Whatever needed to be done to keep a child secure and sorrow free. The heavy, “Is there is or is there ain’t?” can come later on in his life. We all have to find our own path.

Dutchess_III's avatar

At bedtime I once asked my dad what it was like to be dead

He said “Well what was it like be fore you were born? Were you scared?” I went to sleep on that and decided there was nothing to worry about.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

@Dutchess_III Truth….I like that. Similar to a quip that Mark Twain allegedly once made: “I have no particular fear of death. After all, I didn’t exist for a billion years before I was born, and it never caused me the slightest inconvenience”.

JLoon's avatar

I’d say you don’t have to die – Just dream.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Dutchess_III Buddhism believes that every living thing can reincarnate, depending on how much good deed you do in your lifetime. If you are a worm and spend your life trying to be a good worm, you will have a chance to be reincarnated into something better, like a bird, or even a human. If you are a bird and you are a bad bird, you will be reincarnated into a mosquito. If you are a human and you behave badly, you will be reincarnated into a cockroach. You get the picture. So there could be a chance a random rolly polly you see in your garden was a human in its past life, and there could be a chance he/she was related to you in your past life, be it your friend, your lover, or even your family member.

I’m not arguing about anything, and I don’t think I fully believe in reincarnation either. I’m just explaining to you how reincarnation is viewed by Buddhism.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Actually, I know how it works @Mimishu1995. I studied it in college. I loved the concept.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Dutchess_III I like the concept too, to some extend. It actually has a really dark implication if you think about it. So let’s say in the past life you were a bad person, so now you reincarnate into something horrible, like a bad animal or a person with severe disability. That is all fine and good, until you realize you have no memory of what your bad deed was. You don’t even know who you were in the past to lead you to this horrible current life. Reincarnation may look like a good explanation to how some people get the bad end of the stick in life, but it’s also really humiliating to the unfortunate person and unfair to the more fortunate person. It implies that the unfortunate are bad people when they did nothing wrong, and the fortunate are good people when they are actually scums of the Earth. It’s also really random, because it relies a lot on speculation to judge a person, since no one can be sure who or what you were in your past life. And this is the reason why I don’t subscribe to reincarnation.

I grew up with Buddhism, and I don’t see the concept of “heaven” being talked about anywhere, just reincarnation and fate. At least our concept of “heaven” is very different from the concept of heaven in Western culture.

Jeruba's avatar

I’d be concerned first about where he got the idea. If his parents haven’t misled him with this make-believe, who or what is giving him this kind of fantasy as fact? Something on TV? Friends? His own imagination?

I would want to fortify him with a truthful and realistic concept suitable for his age level. It would be important to set him straight, but gently. But I would not take it upon myself to decide what might be necessary and appropriate for a child not my own.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well he’s not in a bubble.
He’s In school and watches TV.

longgone's avatar

Aw, that’s heartbreaking.

I would tell him I understand. That it’s awful to miss someone you loved, that I miss the dog too, and that what he is feeling is a very big and difficult emotion called “grief”.

I would ask him where he thinks the dog is and what he’s doing, maybe encourage drawing because that can help children process their feelings. If he has any fears or worries about his dog being lost or scared, emphasize that you believe he is safely resting. It’s true. Beware of saying “we can get a new dog”, or otherwise implying that it’s not a big deal. He needs connection in his sadness. If he were grieving for a sibling, everyone would understand his deep emotions.

I’d ask if there’s anything we can do in this world to honour the dog. What would he have wanted? For example, if the dog loved playing fetch, maybe we can buy a toy and give it to a neighborhood dog or the local shelter as a gift. Or we could go out at night and light a candle while thinking about the dog’s favourite things. A child I know once grieved for my dog by writing a letter and leaving it by a stream, the dog’s favourite spot. You can also read books about loss and grief.

There needs to be room for his grief, because it can actually be dangerous to push feelings like that away. I wouldn’t worry too much about the idea of reincarnation – this is just the logic of a child. His dog is gone, but he can’t imagine him being “dead” – who can, really? So he wants to follow in the dog’s footsteps, believing they can be reunited.

flutherother's avatar

I would tell him that he can see his old dog in his imagination and remind him how his dog used to behave and what he got up to. I would share my experiences and feelings about the dog and try to bring him back in terms of shared emotions.

canidmajor's avatar

There are (or used to be) a number of age appropriate books that deal with this. I’m sorry, but the titles escape me right now. They should be easy to Google.

I think this has a lot less to do with religious vs atheist beliefs, and more about the idea that young children have the idea that if the dog is not here he must be somewhere for whatever reason.

Dutchess_III's avatar

GA you guys.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Totally on board with @longgone. The memories, pictures, flowers on a grave, volunteering at a local rescue some Saturday, etc… Whatever is takes to help him process his grief in a positive way.
My family just said they died, it was a fact and sad but thats farm life. Bury them and its over. Poor little fellow may need a bit more closure.
Such a good grandma, its so sweet for you to care.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The dog died 6 months ago!
He didn’t ask me. He asked his mom who fielded it like Simone Briles!

I guess I’d also ask him what HE thought happened after you died.

jca2's avatar

I think death is a hard thing to understand, for anyone, but especially for a little kid. To comprehend that we die and will never be seen again, will never be able to wake up from being dead, and are now just a memory – that’s a lot for a little kid to wrap their head around.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly. If it’s handled wrong it would just scare the hell out of the kid. You wouldn’t want to say things like “You’ll never see your family again.” Terrifying prospect.

That’s why I think it would be a good idea to ask them what THEY think death means and go from there.

Zaku's avatar

I’d tell them that I get how they feel. But that I hope they don’t, because I and their mother and many other people would be sad if they were not around. I might also share how I feel like my former pets can still be tuned into, but only if their mother were on the same page.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III You don’t want the kid to commit suicide to see their dog either. Or, their dead mother in the real life case I mentioned. As a young child it never occurred to me I could die and see a dead relative, I had never heard of that.

I still think it is about grieving and the child mostly is focused on the loss and needs comfort around that.

kritiper's avatar

@Nomore_lockout That is your belief, not his. Better to play it safe to tell him what is obviously true rather than tell him something that you question as truth. Let him make up his own mind about what your questionable truth is when he gets older.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III Because it could be the difference of life and death for him now.

kritiper's avatar

I think many suicides among young people would be eliminated if they didn’t believe so firmly that there was an afterlife. Such a waste of young lives!

Nomore_lockout's avatar

All “truth” is open to question.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What is “obviously true” @kritiper?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Again, I think it’s important to find out what the child thinks it means to die before you get down and dirty and terrifying. Work within his framework.

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I’m agreed @Dutchess_III. Look folks, I’m agnostic so all of this life after death crap is open to interpretation by me. But I often read or hear about people mentioning how traumatizing that Christian End Times eshatology can be to a child. I agree. In the same sense, at least in my view, can be the atheist view that, oh well kiddo we go out lile a candle and your dog is gone, suck it up. You won’t ever see it again .It’s six of the one and a half dozen of the other..There are better ways to deal with it..someone above mentioned a fear that a kid might contemplate suicide, in order to reunite with a dead pet or family member. I’d sit him down, and sans all of your prayer meetings or science lectures,.maybe tell him that, Look.You know how awful you feel about your dog passing away? Well don’t you think your mom, dad, baby sis and brother would feel just as bad, of you were to pass? Something on those lines. There has to be a way to get through this without freaking this kid out..just my last two cents on this subject..

YARNLADY's avatar

The dog would like you to live your life as an honor to him. He would be sad if you died before your time.

janbb's avatar

“The Tenth Good Thing About Barney” by Judith Viorst is a classic picture book dealing with a child’s grief at the death of a dog.

canidmajor's avatar

@janbb Thanks! That was the main one I was trying to remember!

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