**Disclaimer** I realize that everyone has their own beliefs and their own teachings. I don't want anyone to think this is what I believe everyone should be teaching their children. Maybe you will agree with what we believe & teach and maybe you won't. I think it's an interesting topic to discuss, though. Maybe you will take away one point of what I teach my kids and apply it to what you teach yours. Or maybe you will think I'm crazy and not agree with me at all. That's okay! I think it's important to be respectful of what we all believe and just be supportive of different views.
Our kids have had to deal with death from a very early age.
I didn't lose a grandparent until I was 21. So I grew up not really understanding death. I mean, I understood what happened. But I grew up never having to deal with it as a child. I never lost anyone truly close to me until I was an adult. So having to explain death in child-like terms is something I really had to dig deep for and ask a lot of questions to others for advice. But alas, we sort of developed our own explanation.
So before that, I guess it's important to explain what we believe.
We are not religious. We are not atheists, though. We believe there is a God and we believe there is a Heaven. We don't go to church and we don't study the Bible.
We are more spiritual than religious.
What does that mean exactly?
This is an excerpt from another article that explains it pretty well for us,
"Being a spiritual person is synonymous with being a person whose highest priority is to be loving to yourself and others. A spiritual person cares about people, animals and the planet. A spiritual person knows that we are all One, and consciously attempts to honor this Oneness."
We believe in Heaven. But we believe Heaven is all around us. As a child I always thought Heaven was this far away place behind the Pearly Gates where my loved one were basically locked inside. I thought it was up in the clouds, untouchable and unreachable. I thought the only way to access my loved ones would be once I die myself. I thought that I'd never be able to talk to my loved ones again. I thought that by praying to them, maybe God would give them the message after he heard it. I didn't think my loved ones could see or hear me, ever.
I basically thought that once someone dies, okay cool, see you when I die too.
We don't teach our children that.
We teach them that Heaven is all around us. They can talk to their Puppa whenever they want and he will always hear them. He can travel from place to place so fast that he can be with their cousins in Michigan but then come to Colorado faster than they can snap their fingers. We teach them that Puppa can see their soccer games and that he is cheering them on from the sidelines with us. Puppa is riding in the car with us sometimes too, jamming out to the music. Puppa is there with us Christmas morning when we open up presents. He is there when we sing Happy Birthday to them. He is there when they are scared and afraid of the dark. He is there hugging them when they are sad and missing him.
We teach them that he sends them pennies and that's his way of saying "I love you".
They write letters to him and we leave them in the mailbox for the mail service to take them to Heaven.
They draw him pictures and we hang them up so that he can see them.
I want them to feel like Heaven is close. I want them to know that their Puppa is just invisible to our eyes but that he still is there. I want them to still be able to access his love and not feel like it's gone until they die. I want that magic to always stay with them.
Because honestly, even as an adult, it still feels just as magical when you truly believe that your loved one is so close.
Heaven and Hell
Some people teach their kids that bad people go to Hell and that only good people go to Heaven.
But we don't believe in Hell.
We believe everyone goes to Heaven. Even the "bad guys".
But what happens to those "bad guys" is different than what happens to those "good guys" once they arrive in Heaven.
The bad guys have to go back to school once they get to Heaven. They have to learn how to be a good person again. They get to spend time studying the ways to be better people and until they learn that, they have to keep going to school.
We don't believe in Hell because we believe it was this place created through religion to keep people fearful and compliant. "Let's put the 'fear of God' into him!" I really don't want to sound disrespectful when I say that. But to be honest, I have always had an issue with how people use Hell as a scare tactic. I just don't think there is this fiery place waiting for people when they die. I think Heaven is the only place we go, regardless of how awful you were as a person here.
"What happened to Puppa when he died?"
Our kids ask this a lot. What we explain to them is that everyone is made up of a soul. What is a soul exactly? Well it's this invisible ball-like substance that lives inside our body while we are alive. It's what makes all of us who we are. Some souls really love playing sports. Some souls really love playing music. Some souls are very nice. Some souls are mean. Some souls love eating vegetables and some souls love eating fruit.
But everyone has their own soul. It's what makes each person so different and unique.
(Side note: our identical twins, who have the same DNA, could not be more opposite. So it sort of is a real-life example for us to show our kids how souls really work! Because in our minds, IDENTICAL TWINS should be the exact same in every aspect. But they most definitely are not. Same genes, different souls!)
Our body is the vessel (or boat in more child-like terms) and our soul is the driver that keeps it alive. While we are alive, our soul is what helps us steer our way through life. Once we die, our soul leaves our body and goes to Heaven. We can't take our bodies to Heaven so that's why they stay here after we die. Only our soul goes to Heaven. So we also teach them that we have to take care of our bodies here, because they are what we use to stay alive for so long.
"But then we are a ball-like thing in Heaven?"
The cool thing about souls is that once it leaves our body, it can recreate the same body in Heaven so that when we get there, we will be able to recognize our loved ones.
What happens between the moment we die and the moment we get to Heaven?
"How will we know how to get to Heaven once we die, Mama?"
To make the transition to Heaven seem less scary, I explain to them that once we all die, our loved ones are waiting right there for us. They basically are there to grab our hands and show us the way. They know the moment we will transition on, so they're going to be there waiting for us the moment that we do. They will help us get to Heaven and teach us all that we need to know about it.
What are our loved ones doing all day?
My kids have sort of created their own theories of what Puppa is doing all day. When he's not checking in on us, he's spending his time fishing or eating chocolate cake. They each have their own ideas at any time of the day.
"I bet Puppa is shopping for groceries right now."
"I bet he is swimming in the ocean!"
"I wonder if Puppa is playing hockey right now with his friends?"
"Puppa must be taking a shower for his big party tonight!"
I agree with their theories whenever they come up with them.
"I bet you're right!"
It makes it seem less foreign. Plus I love that they use their imagination to create scenarios in their heads.
I believe that by making Heaven seem so close, they think about him more. They wonder about him more. They haven't forgotten him. They keep his memory alive because they are always wondering what he's up to. It makes him not seem "so gone". It almost feels like we could pick up the phone and call him at anytime and actually hear his voice. It makes it feel like he's soooo close to being able to touch and see.
Typing this out and reading it back sort of makes it sound crazy, if I'm being honest. But in real life it has always been this natural conversation with the kids that has just made sense.
As our kids grow, they'll absolutely be free to choose what to believe as they wish. For now, this has worked for our family.