S.--A couple of things struck me when I read your request. One is that I know that when my son was about that age, he seemed to become aware of MY mortality, my age, aging and asked a lot about how much longer...[i quietly laugh]. He is extremely verbal, and I was able to get hin to express the true fear. I have a deceased brother and sister [my mother passed 2 years ago, as well as 7 other close family members in less than 3 years]. I don't and did not talk much about them 'looking down on us', because when i was young that really bothered me--my sister had died and people were constantly saying she was watching 'over' me. It made me somewhat self conscious, and when i think of it now, I can see why it did--I thought people were seeing every little mistake or thought. Anyway, that is just another perspective on that 'watching over' thing, it seems comforting, but like the santa coming down the chimney--my son is totally creeped by santa breaking and entering--perspectives are going to vary. With my son I say that we miss people from here--I miss my mother, but I can still tell her things or share with her because the heart is always connected, love does not die, only the body does. We also do a lot of sky watching--my son swears that my mom paints him pictures in the clouds, which is a happy thought, so death doesn't seem so frightening, I think it gave him an idea of what people may be doing after they die. And I curbed my serious mourning periods when he was around, because I think often we speak too freely in front of our young children not thinking they understand, they might not fully, but they certainly pick up on the overall picture. Have you ever asked her what she misses about Papa? It may help her to realize that she didn't know him, with my son I would say [about my brother] that I know he would have liked you, but it is great that you have your Uncle Mike, isn't it.....?
I have been through that age period with several girl cousins, my son and my best friend's children. And one thing that has worked pretty clearly is to simply ask when they say they don't know if something is wrong--if they need some mommy time--clearly calling out the need for extra attention. And express that it is perfectly okay to ask for it, that mommy time is available even when you are not crying or feeling sick, or in a bad mood.......that you can be in a good mood and get hugs etc. More often than not the crying clears up and they simply say yeah, i mostly want you, or specifically--I dont want to go to bed! [my cousin [she lived with me] was notorious for finding some serious emotional outburst to counter bedtime, my son is also a pro], but by really talking to them both and offering an 'honest out' where they could possibly still get what they want the crying jags were fewer, or would be shortened by a question--'do you feel like you need to have another story', 'are you not quite ready for bed'. I am really trying to get my son able to express what he wants, and for all of the kids to understand that they can get as much attention positively as they can when something is wrong--which I think that both work to help prevent depression or bottled up emotions or not knowing how to handle emotions, later in life.
sorry for the long answer, hope any of it helped in some way.
I think we dont like to say this, but children learn how to manipulate us to get what they want or need, truly, from birth [it is necessary to do so], and they learn what we fear or what triggers our undivided attention. I try to teach the kids that they can really get what they need by asking for it.
I was a houseparent, counselor for behaviorally challenged children. Depression does run in families [I think it is 10% without looking it up], but helping your daughter identify and really honor her feelings, without giving MORE attention to her dark moods than her light, will go a long way to helping her deal with emotions in a positive way.