Explaining Death

Shannon - posted on 01/19/2011 ( 6 moms have responded )

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I've recently lost my mother, so my Son's Grandmother. He is 3 and has asked where Grandma is. Not sure how I should approach this and would love any advice. Thanks.

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Lynda - posted on 01/19/2011

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Honesty is the best policy when trying to explain death to a small child. My son, who will be 4 in February, lost my grandmother Christmas 2009, but since she was in a retirement home and in another state, it really did not affect him that much. He knows she is gone and that he will not see her again (we told her that she went to Heaven to be with Jesus). However, we did recently lose a puppy due to a congenital heart defect rather suddenly and it was very hard for him to understand how she could be there when he went to bed and not be there the next morning. We told him that she got very sick after he went to bed and had to go to the animal doctor. They tried to help her but she died there. He was angry and cried and for a while asked when she would be back and we just gently repeated that when someone or something dies, they don't come back and that our puppy would not be coming back. That was in October and he is finally not asking about her anymore (we did get another puppy and that helped). He will tell people that his other dog died but now we have this one. I made sure to tell him that even though we did get another dog, that people and animals cannot be replaced and to not expect the new puppy to be the same as the one who died. Be honest and try to explain as best you can and according to your faith that your mother died and what that means. You will have to probably deal with lots of whys. Just try to keep it simple and honest and answer as best you can what he needs to know. Make sure he knows it's ok to cry and ok to talk about his Grandma. Death is something that they can never hope to understand at this age but being honest and sympathetic sure can help. Good luck and I am sorry for your loss.

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Faith - posted on 01/22/2011

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i had to help explain this to my sister who mentally is only 2 to 4 yrs old. i just said that grandpa went to be with jesus and hes watching down on you. my son was not old enough to understand when papa died so i have not had to go this route with my own children yet.

Megan - posted on 01/21/2011

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i am so sorry your mother has passed. we have preemptively talked to our children about death due to poor health of close family members. i took a christian workshop that had a session about this very thing that was very good. it was a puppet show that talked about God and relationships children have. then the characters talked about having a soul and a body kind of like the hand and puppet. then the preformer would take her hand out of the puppet and bring it to herself and show that the puppet was not "alive" anymore, but the soul/hand was now with its owner/in heaven with God/the preformer.

Dora - posted on 01/21/2011

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If you are religious then let him know that she went up to heaven with God. he is taking care of her now. Let him know he can say a prayer at night and send it up to her. It is difficult but you don't want to lie to him. Tell him the truth but use terms you know he will understand. Also make her death seem like a positive thing and not a bad thing. You don't want him to fear death or have anxiety over death. I am so sorry to hear about your mom. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Shannon - posted on 01/20/2011

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Thank you both very much for your help on this. I wasn't sure if the idea of death would blow his mind and after reading both posts, being frank is the best way to go. We talk about her all the time (she made is fave blankie) and I like to keep her present even if she's not here. Thank you again for your help :)

Rachael - posted on 01/19/2011

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be matter of fact without being harsh. Tell him that Grandma died. She did not choose to leave him, but she had to go. Tell him that she still loves him very much, and that he can still talk about her and to her. he can draw her pictures but that she is not there to hug him or hold him. Tell him that it is okay to cry if he misses her and let him see that you miss her too. I do not know what your religious beliefs are, but as a christian I believe in heaven and angels. My son knows he has a friend who is playing at the playground in heaven and he has angels watching over him. (he is only 21 months old and when he was 6 months a close friend lost her 4 day old baby. I also have alot of relatives that passed before he was born but we still talk about his angels) You may consider taking him to see where she is buried and letting him bring her a picture he drew. It is a tough subject, but one your can't ignore. Good luck, and I am sorry for your loss.

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