"One of my four-year-old twins is obsessed with death. She wants to know everything about dying. Again and again, she asks me to tell her about what happens when people die. Initially, I was a little surprised by her fascination with ‘died’ people, as she calls them, but then it became clear that she was thinking a lot about this whenever she was quiet.
‘Will you tell me more about dying. What happens when people die?’ she asks me every night before bed.
‘Their bodies stop working. Their hearts stop working,’ I tell her.
‘Is this what happened with Naanaa?’
Naanaa – my father, their grandfather – died in November last year. The twins met him only once, just before their third birthday when we visited India in 2019, although we tried to speak regularly over FaceTime. We were due to visit again in early 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and slowly he became more ill, more frail; the loneliness and isolation of the lockdown, and the lack of adequate healthcare during these weeks and months, took their toll on him.
Preschool children can make sense of death, but only through their parent’s grief, and this is clearly what is happening here: I’d travelled to India and stayed for a week after my father’s funeral and was very open with my children about my sadness. I want them to understand that their grandfather is dead, and I want them to know him, if only through my memories. I also want to normalise talking about death going hand-in-hand with life, especially as right now, with the world in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic crisis, my children hear my husband and I talking about death so often."