Metaphor Monday  We interrupt regular programming to bring you this special seasonal post . . . .


This weekend our family attended the 12th annual Night of Dread here in Toronto. We’ve been going almost 10 years now. The thing that keeps us coming back year after year other than the spectacular parade of giant puppets, live drumming bands to groove to and a parade of community, is the facing your fears portion of the night. After the parade we gather round a large circle and the archetypal fears are called forward. One by one the fears step into the centre of the circle and community is invited to laugh at or shun the fear with “Boooo”s.  There is fear of natural disasters, fear of government aka “Prime minister Nobody”,  Toronto’s Mayoral gravy boat, fear of war, fear of consumption.  The list goes on.

After that, other big and “little” or idiosyncratic fears are called upon, each written on cardboard signs pre-made by participants prior to the parade.  Fears such as the fear of “getting into trouble” “zombies” “fear of racism” “fear of authority” to name a few. We are all called upon to repeat these fears out loud, yell them loud just before they are thrown into the cleansing fire in the middle. Its a ritual with such deep meaning, perhaps not always fully comprehended by our children though enjoyed by them just the same. They have the opportunity to see the community at large gather to protest, fight back and take control of their fears in a fun and peaceful way, all the while bringing awareness to important issues and creating a feeling of not being alone in one’s fears.


After this, the community (not audience as we are all participating on some level by just being there I believe) are invited to dance with death.  Every year I waltz with death.


This year was bitter-sweet: for not only did I have the usual feeling of gratitude for my life, but also a great sense of loss for my family, as my father-in-law had died this past spring.

The gathering was held in a large park and after the activities we took some time to visit the shrines that were scattered across the park, each lit with a small candle.  This year we participated on another level as a family.  Night of Dread invited people from the community to make shrines for loved ones who had died or to morn the loss of other tragedies such as natural disasters, pollution and so forth.  Together (while my mother-in-law watched) we built a shrine for my father-in-law.  Chris did most of the arranging of items and pictures he had picked.  My sons made a rendition of a lira, an instrument that their grandfather’s father use to play.

As we walked among the collective shrines that night we saw a shrine for the earth, one for Haiti, pet cats, John Lennon and others loved ones who had died.

My sons made a lira to hang in their grandfather's shrine


This multimodal approach to fears is what kids need. Talking about fears is useless to kids because being rational is not a part of one’s fears.  Kid’s know that there are no monsters under the bed but they feel them there anyway. Through ritual, these fears can be acknowledged, accepted and released.


The Cycle of Life

How do you explain death to a child? How do you help them understand that it is inevitable, while still allowing them to mourn their loss?

As parents we sometimes want to protect our children from the concept of death. Today’s metaphor explores these difficult questions.

Welcome to the seventh Metaphor Monday video. Where I explore a different metaphor each week, viewing parenting from a different perspective.



What have been your experiences in helping children understand death? I invite you to share below in the comments.


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