Explaining death

Jennifer - posted on 01/08/2009 ( 9 moms have responded )

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I have a 5 year old son, my grandmother died in October and just recently my husbands grandfather died. He knows about heaven, my brother died while I was pregnant with him so he knows that Uncle Jeremy is gone and that he lives in heaven now. I'm just really scared because he saw my grandmother in the coffin and was very confused as to why if grandma was in heaven why was she in that "bed" (coffin). I'm scared that I have completely traumatized him by letting him go to the showing. My husbands grandfather had a graveside service and we didn't take Dylan...we live in Indiana and it is very cold and he still had a touch of the flu. But he is now asking all kinds of questions about death. He saw both of these grandparents all the time. It's really hard answering some of his questions. I was just wondering if anyone else has been through this. Thanks

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Jennifer - posted on 01/09/2009

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Thank you so much for all your advice. I think Dylan is coming to a better understanding of death. I really like the star idea. My brother wanted to be cremated and I have a small teardrop necklace with just a few of his ashes and Dylan will talk about it and say that my necklace is the way mommy can have Uncle Jeremy near her heart. My mother has the same kind of necklace. I thank you all for the great advice. I appreciate it so much.

Emma - posted on 01/08/2009

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i have a four year old and three year old, my father passed away in september 2007 and they were constantly with him when i worked, the hardest thing i have ever had to do is tell them he was gone,, although they dont really understand the fact of death, we told them he was up in heaven with the angels and they were takin care of him now, as we also told them that poppy was to sick for the doctors to fix,, we didnt take them to the graveside service either .. but we take them to the grave and they now understand that poppy wont be coming home because he's in heaven but if you want to talk to him or give him flowers (his grave) his special spot is where you go to do it ..... i dont know if it helps but that was the only way i could explain it to them, and even though it hurts, when they ask questions all you can do is answer them honestly... my kids even though this was a year ago, are constantly asking questions about why there poppy died and where he is now , and why couldnt the doctors just give him a band aid and fix him, and all i can say is the truth and that is that poppy was to sick for the doctors to fix ..... good luck ,, with it all hope it helps a little bit

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BENEDETTA - posted on 11/29/2012

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Hi Stacey,

I have just read your post. My ex-husband has committed suicide 2-days ago. I have a 5 year old and a 11-year old. My 11-year old is very emotional, she knows, but I have not told the 5-year old yet, he knows something is wrong, I am just not strong enough to tell this child that wont understand, as he keeps on asking me why his dad is not picking him up anymore on the days he visited.

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I once saw on TV a counsellor advising this mother to let her child watch 'The Tales of Narnia" (if I'm not mistaken)...it's the movie with the lion in it!  Apparently, this counsellor thought it was a good way for children to 'visualise' and understand in their own terms what death means.  I would definitely preview this movie before letting my child watch it, just in case you don't like its message.

Melissa - posted on 01/08/2009

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My son is always crying about lost pets, we haven't lost any family while he was old enough to remember them. I simply told him that everyone dies someday but the wonderful part about dying is that you get to meet God and he take such great care of you until you get to see your family members some day.  Especially if you were really sick or hurting when you were alive. The other wonderful thing is that anyone that passes away that you love gets to be YOUR special Angel and watch over you to help you through hard times, bad dreams, see you in school plays, soccer games etc. He seemed to enjoy that theory and the idea that SOME "good" can be taken from death and accept that it is a natural part of life.  He doesn't seem so scared of it any more.

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My mother-in-law died this summer when my older two were 5 1/2 and 3 1/2. They skipped all the viewings and I just told them that she died and her bodied was going to be buried but her soul would go to heaven. Then explained that your soul is the part of you that thinks, feels, and decided things and that your body is just your hair, skin, bones, muscles, nails and blood. They seemed to have no problem with this. We went to the cemetary for the first time with them 6 months after she died and there was some amazement about how many bodies must be underground but no one seemed disturbed or scared.

Donna - posted on 01/08/2009

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My husband died when my son was 4 years old. My best advice is answer all questions truthfully whether you think they understand or not. I told my son that his Dad's body was in the "box" but that was just a shell that held all the things we loved about him. The shell stayed here and what we loved about him was in heaven now. There is a really good book called "the Fall of Freddy the Leaf" for young children. I also told him that the cemetary had a special place that was just for his Dad and we could go there and know that everytime someone drove or walked  by they would see his Dad's name. We have gone every year on my husband's birthday and Jake let's a baloon with a message from him go to heaven. I chose to celebrate my husband's birth rather than his mourn his death.  My grief counselor told me that what a child imagines about death is always worse than the truth. I think she was right. When my son was 7 he said to me "I'm sad that my Dad won't be there when I grow up and have a son" I thought he was too young to understand forever but I was wrong. He has since lost all grandparents but 1 and also had a child in his 3rd grade class die. He is 16 now and honestly he handles death better than most adults. Good in some ways, sad that he has had to. The other thing I learned in counseling is that your child will take his cue from you, how you react is how he will react.  Jake always forgets the date of his father's death but around his birthday he still reminds me that we need a balloon. I hope this helps, death is a hard subject to explain and every person will explain it different. It all depends on what you believe.

Tricia - posted on 01/08/2009

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When my grandmother passed away 2 years ago my daughter was 5 yrs old. She asked what happened to great-grammy and I explained to her that she went to heaven. She understood what heaven was. She asked me why. I told her because great-grammy was very sick and she went to heaven to be with her doggy Suzie. I assured her that great-grammy felt much better know. When my daughter asked if she will every see her again, she and I picked out a special sparkling star in the sky and told her that this was great-grammy and she would always be looking down on us and taking care of us. So, if she ever wants to talk with great-grammy all she has to do is look up in the sky and see great-grammy's star. She is know 7 yrs old and she will look into the sky and say "There is great-grammy's special star". She even talks to it sometimes.

Stacey - posted on 01/08/2009

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Anytime you talk about death it is really hard to really tell if they understand. My father passed away 2 years ago when my son was in kindergarden and it was really hard on him as they were best friends. My son understands about heaven so we banked off that - told him that your body stays here but your spirit is in heaven and you can talk to grandpa because he is always watching. There are really good books out there to read to a child your sons age. Just make sure you never say 'he is just sleeping' cause then kids become scared to sleep. Make sure if you are taking him with you that you explain that you/daddy maybe crying because you are sad but grandma is in heaven watching us now. Keeping you and yours in prayer!

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