David Duchovny talks about explaining death to his children

07/09/2008 at 07:00 AM ET

DavidduchovnyIn the August issue of Psychologies magazine, actor David Duchovny revealed his belief that "nothing" happens after we die.  David said he hasn’t conveyed that belief yet to his two children with wife Téa Leoni, however.  Instead, 9-year-old Madelaine West and 6-year-old Kyd Miller "believe their granddad’s in heaven, with our dog," David said.  He added,

That’s their reality, so in a way it’s true. I don’t think children can deal with that kind of loss. 

David, 47, and Téa, 42, were married in 1997.

Source: Psychologies; Photo by Flynet.

What did / will you tell your children about death and dying?

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Mary on

oh no did Blue their dog die? :( she was very young when XF started filming.

Jenn on

I think how you explain this to kids has a lot to do with your personal religious beliefs. We’re Christians and believe that when we go to Heaven, our life there will be better than our life here. So in that respect, we were able to explain death in a way that didn’t make it scary or something to be feared. Although I disagree with David’s beliefs, I’m glad he is not sharing them with his children at this point. I’d imagine that his particular way of thinking would be frigtening for a child – most people find some level of comfort in believing that death is not “the end.”

ma74 on

I can’t remember how my parents explained death to me when I was child.We are not religious at all and growing up in France and Germany religion had no place in my life, really.So I never believed I heaven yet I never had a traumatic experience with dearth although I lost my grand-parents (and several animals) when I was a child.

eva on

I disagree with David (with respect of course). Like him, I don’t believe in life after death and I’ve shared this idea multiple times with my daughter who has lost her daddy and her two grandmamas. She handles it well and expreses no desire of believing in heaven or angels. She admitted that the idea is very sweet (some of her friends have shared their thoughts with her)but that she likes to know there’s a beginning and an ending for all of us.I never brought up the subject for her, she once asked me if her father was going to die and we took it from there. I also told her that if one day she wishes to learn about religion and theories of life after death we can do it together; I just want her to know with honesty and clarity what my ideas are, I couldn’t lie to her.

Jenny on

I think kids understand a lot more than we think they do and can handle a lot more than we think they can. I think its best to be honest with hard subjects like this.

Cora on

I think it’s cool when a parent doesn’t try to force their beliefs onto a child, and just uses different ideas to comfort and soothe them when they have questions. But let them develop their own ideas over time as they grow older. “Nothingness” is a fairly imcomprehensible concept before a certain level of abstract thinking is reached, so it definitely helps to imagine a heaven type situation for young children when they experience loss, I suppose. Like everything, maybe it depends on the individual child as well. Some people find comfort in nothingness, some in the beyond.

Maxine on

I was raised Catholic and raised my 3 sons the same way. At my fathers funeral they were 2,8,10. The older boys understood that Grandpa was dead and they would see him again some day, yes they cried, but have often stated 10 years later they were glad at the chance to see him and say goodbye. The now 12 y/o, 2 at the time, walked up to the coffin and patted my dads hand, and walked away, he has no fear and is comfortable at funerals.

Lala on

I had to explain to my four year old yesterday in the car that Louis Armstrong had died a long time ago. He kept asking me why. He likes to think that we live forever and said that he thinks heaven is in the world as opposed to the sky. I told him that since we have recordings of him singing and playing the trumpet, he kind of does live forever. I’ve let him develop his own sense of the afterlife, as I have mine. I respect David Duchovney for allowing his kids to do the same.

Pist on

Oh no! I hope Blue is OK! I’m gonna go ask DD on his blog!

SS on

We’re Catholic and we are raising our children catholic. My son also goes to Catholic school so he is learning about death from the catholic perspective. (life after death in heaven) We try to answer his questions honestly but of course we share what we believe.

When my grandmother died, we told him she was in heaven and that he would see her again one day. He’s 5 so he doesn’t quite get it but death for him while sad, is not scary. I’m sure he will have more questions as he gets older and we plan to share our beliefs but not force it on him. We know he has to come to his own understanding of God.

Shelby on

We, too, adhere to the Christian faith, so we believe in Heavea and an afterlife. My almost 4-year-old has been asking a lot of good, but hard, questions lately. (For example, we drove past a cemetary and he asked what the stones were, and he’s seen a picture of my mom, who is deceased and whom he has never met, so he’s asked about her.) I believe in being as open and honest as the child’s age and development will allow, so I tried to simply explain our religious beliefs regarding the “earthly” body, and the soul. He still doesn’t quite get the concept of death yet, so I haven’t gotten into that much yet.

kiki on

Having lost a loved one almost every year since 2000, my sons (*96 and *98) have had to deal with death a great deal.
And unfortunately my feelings re: “the afterlife” are the same as Mr. Duchovny’s,… a fact that actually makes it very hard for me to cope for example with the death of my sister at the age of 21 four years ago…. but like Mr. Duchovny I don’t have my beliefs up for discussion with my children, … they hope that there’ s a heaven and that is something I can whole-heartedly agree wit… I DO HOPE, too.

Whenever there is a bit of help needed, like when they happen to fear there might be nothing, we have a good friend, they can talk to… and he should know… he’s our churhc’s parson and our neighbour. On one occasion he’s helped our oldest simply by answering “YES !” when he asked him if there’s a heaven… a certainty, unshaken or marred by insecurity, that I couldn’t give .

I deeply believe that children, especially the gifted ones like ours, need to be able to believe in the concept of heaven for their own sakes….

Sapphira Miller on

My half-brother was almost three when his mom, my stepmom died. At first we just told him she was gone. Then when he got a couple years older we told him that she was dead, which means she fell asleep and she won’t wake up.

Rachel K. on

I whole heartedly agree with Cora on this one… you can’t possibly explain the concept of “nothingness” to a child. There’s just no way to do it. It’s hard enough trying to explain death to a child at all, but I simply can’t imagine trying to explain to a child that nothing happens to you when you die… you’re just… nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking anyone’s beliefs… I just know several individuals who have turned to the story of heaven in explaining the death of a loved one to a child even though they don’t believe in it themselves.

Maddie on

That’s a tough question isn’t it. How do you explain death to a child? I can understand the whole going to sleep and not waking up theory, but I don’t neccessarily agree with it. In my mind, it just makes the kids fear going to sleep as they might ‘die’ too. There are lots of great children’s books about explaining death to children.

Angie on

As a Wiccan, death is as natural to us as life. My daughter is 8, and has experienced 2 deaths so far, both were her grandparents and she was particularly close to my dad. At 4, she needed to know that Papaw was gone from his physical body, but we encourage her to always know he is around, watching over her and comforting her in her grief. She was very comfortable at the funeral and I had several comments that for a 4 yr old, they felt that she consoled THEM! We are teaching her that death is only a physical end, and that souls can be reincarnated as new lives or they can choose to become ethereal and watch over loved ones. I respect the Christian idea of Heaven, as my dad was Catholic and he believed in Heaven, and I think we meet halfway on this with our daughter, in allowing her to be able to understand death and also have hope for the soul of the person she loves. I have a niece who is very sheltered due to her mom’s own overwhelming fear of death and I feel so sorry for her, because she is 9 and doesn’t even know people die. She believes they move away and never come back, and I truly worry that it is setting up abandonment issues for her. Has anyone else had an experience like this and if so, what was a good way to help? I cannot violate her mothers feelings on this but I want her to become a confident woman as she grows up and not fear death as her mom does. I did suggest to my sister-in-law that she may want to speak with her and perhaps approach it as a flower dies but that we can always remember the beauty of it. Thus far, she’s not even in the same zip code with that idea and having a family member who is very ill and expected to leave us soon, I do not want my niece to think he abandoned her, they are very close. Any ideas or help CBB readers?

Marlene on

I’m not well versed on this, but isn’t the idea that nothing happens after we die a tenet of Judaism? Doesn’t David have a Jewish heritage? I’m not certain on his background, and I don’t necessarily think that one’s cultural or spiritual heritage rules his beliefs, but what he said makes a lot of sense in that context. If anyone out there has more knowledge about this, please post.

Anocas on

Oh well it’s very hard subject, I also thinks nothing happens after death, you know, when you’re born you begin, when you die, you end, finish a really “The End by the Doors”. That’s it. The same thing that happens to every single being (maybe that’s why I love babies and children so much…).
I also believe, and I’ve read it several times in different places too, that if a child is able to ask something is because she has the capability of listening to the answer, or she wouldn’t be able to ask (I don’t know if I’m making myself clear though).
I don’t have a child yet so I really don’t know how I would deal with the situation, and I’ll probably don’t know by the time I have one. It’s normal when parents try to protect their kids from death because that’s what terrifies human beings the most, and that one of the flaws of being humans we’re aware of our own death unlike other animals, which survive by instinct without knowing they’re “survivng”, oh well, too much philosophy for one post.
I think people should answer according to their believes, many children are raised up Catholics, for example, and they turn out not to be religious, or not believing in Heaven, or vice-versa, kids will make their own minds sooner or later, anyway. I think the problem isn’t about WHAT you say but HOW you say. And the “sleeping and never waking up” thing is the worst thing you can say to a child, because not only are you lying, you’re also scarying the child to death (lol)! Sleeping is something natural and essencial, can’t be compared to death, as sleeping is something a child has to have everyday.

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