Out of the Mouths: “You said it would just be his body…”

We had a death in the family last week. His name was Carl.

Other than my parents’ dog, Chelsie, and Christian’s parents’ dog, Forrest, the kids have been lucky enough not to have had to deal with death. (Zoe did go to a friend’s funeral once with me, but she was a baby and she didn’t understand.)

Christian and I are a little fuzzy on our own religious beliefs, so we are not exactly sure what we are planning to teach our children. When Chelsie died, though, my mom told them something like, “Chelsie is in the stars now,” and it kind of stuck.

Anyway, the funeral was Sunday. Saturday at dinner we tried to prep the kids for it. We explained that they should be on their best behavior. We explained that people would be sad and might be crying. I knew that there would be an open casket, so we tried to describe what that would be like. We told them that Carl would be there, but that it would “just be his body” and that the rest of him would be “in the stars like Chelsie.”

They were very well-behaved at the funeral and seemed to understand what was going on. Noah was a little confused that some people were laughing at the visitation since we said they would be crying, but I explained that we were talking about the good times we had with Carl and that it was OK to laugh about those memories.  He seemed satisfied.

Fast forward to that night. About 15 minutes after we put them all in bed, Zoe came back in our room. She gave me a funny little look and said, “Mommy, you said it would just be his body there, but he still had a head.


I have no idea how, but I held it together while explaining that his head was part of his body and that I just meant that his “soul” wasn’t there anymore. Then, of course, she needed to know what a “soul” was. I think I explained it well enough, but there’s no way to be sure since I already thought I’d explained things well and she didn’t think he was going to have a head!

I got her back to bed. Then I went downstairs to tell Christian and lose.my.sh*t.

As I talked to Christian, I wasn’t sure which I should be most concerned about. Was she:

  • A. Terrified and having nightmares Saturday night that she was going to go see a body without a head on Sunday, or
  • B. Totally *OK* with the fact that she was going to see a body without a head.

Man this parenting gig is rough. There’s pretty much no chance I’m going to get through this thing without totally screwing them up, is there?


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