I had been thinking about a post on how preschoolers view death when the mom of a 4 years old asked for tips on discussing the cemetery near their home. The definition of a cemetery is pretty easy. It is a place to put people or things that we care about after they die. Things that are not important go in the trash. Things that are important are placed in a cemetery. A tombstone is a marker so everyone remembers exactly where something important was placed. Dead leaves go in the trash or compost because they are not important. People and pets go in the cemetery.
Caring for fresh cut flowers is a good way to explain death. The child should be asked to assist in the care of the flowers. (Ideally, the flowers would live about 3 days.) They are talked about as pretty and enjoyable. The child is complimented on her ability to care for them. The flowers get clean water and a vase but eventually they die despite everyone’s best efforts. The death of the flowers is discussed. Dead flowers can not be made alive again because death can not be “fixed”. For the aforementioned 4 year old, the dead flowers might be appropriately placed just inside the cemetery gate.