When is the best time to tell a 3yr old his daddy's not coming back?

Vikki - posted on 04/27/2009 ( 24 moms have responded )

5

17

0

Hi,

I suddenly lost my partner of 6 1/2yrs 4 months ago. We have a beautyful son who just turned 3 this month. How do i explain to him that his daddy has died? When is the best time to tell him? i hear conflicting stories all the time. Some say tell him now & others say wait till he can understand.

I would appreciate to hear from those who have been through similar experience's, any little addvice to help me get through this!!



Vikki

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Heather - posted on 07/17/2009

3

11

0

I tolde my son at 2 and a half that his dad died and is in heaven. He understands now, but for a while, we talked about it every day and had to really drill that his daddy is not able to come home anymore. He still loves us very much but can't be here on Earth. He watches sometimes from Heaven and wants to make sure we are doing ok. He seems fine with it now and will tell everyone who asks what happened. Grove died very suddenly too and I had to get it straight in my head before could explain it to someone else let alone our son. But I will pray very hard for you and your family. I am so sorry you are in this group with us, but glad we have resource.

Carole - posted on 05/11/2009

8

18

0

Vikki, I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my husband suddenly almost two years ago. My daughter was three, going on four. I know it helped a lot that my daughter had been exposed to religon. I explained to her that God need her daddy for important things in heaven so he sent angels to bring him to heaven. She, of course, misses him and has her sad days but when she is feeling down we pull out pictures and tell stories about him. I think it's important that she knows that it's ok to miss him and that I miss him too. She does not remember much about him but she loves to talk about how he would braid her hair and take her to the park or library. She always wants to hear the story of how excited he was when we went to the hospital the day she was born and how he didn't want to let her go when she was finally born. I explained to her that daddy is always with us in our hearts. When she is sad I ask her where daddy is and she points to her heart and then mine and then we give daddy a hug by hugging each other. I also told her that daddy left her a million kisses for me to give to her from him so every time I give her a kiss I give her one from daddy too. She is five now, going on six and I think explaining that he is in heaven was the best way. I've lost my grandfather (her papa) and my parents have lost their dog since then. We now talk about how daddy is fishing with Papa and playing with Brindle. I found this to be a great way to teach her about other realitives that have passed before she could meet them. I lost my brother and two other grandparents before she was born and never knew how to "introduce" them into her life. Now that they are apart of her daddy's stories it's easier to get her interested in stories of people she has never met. And she knows that she isn't singled out, everyone deals with death and people have gone to heaven before and after her daddy. Sorry for rambling. I hope this helps. One last thing, I believe the sooner you let him know that he's not coming back, the sooner he can come to terms with it. You will be surprised to see how much a four year old can understand. Good luck. It's a hard road but God only gives you what he knows you can handle. He will help you through the difficult situations if you open your heart and listen.

Ami - posted on 05/04/2009

12

20

4

I'm very sorry for your loss. My husband died when my daughter was 4 months old, she's just turned three this past February.
I am taking Hospice volunteer training right now and I learned something just last week that might be able to help a little. I don't think you should tell your son daddy is away working or things that people regularly do. One day when you, or anyone he loves has to go to work he will relate it to his daddy and how he didn't come home. This could terrify him of anyone every leaving. Neera is absolutely right. You should be honest but age appropriate. Making it clear that daddy isn't coming home is very important but you need to be ready to deal with the questions that may arise.
Because my daughter was so young I never had such issues to deal with. Every now and again now she'll tell me that she's going to the store to see daddy or that she's calling daddy on the phone. I tell her that daddy's gone to heaven and even though he can't be with us, all we have to do is close our eyes and we can see him and he'll always be in our heart.
Good luck and be strong.

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

24 Comments

View replies by

Angi - posted on 01/18/2010

1

28

0

My husband and the father of my 2 and 4 year old sons died in december of 2009. From the beginning I was told by grief support that I should use the words Dead, and Died rather than "sleeping" "gone" etc. as this will confuse children and may lead to fear of falling asleep or anyone being gone. It has been one month yesterday, and my 4 year old still asks why he can't see daddy from time to time, I just tell him as I have from day one that daddy got sick and he died and that we will never get to see him again in life, but we can see him in our dreams. He wants to know where daddy went and that part is hard because I have not let them see daddy's grave or anything yet. So I tell them that he went to heaven to be with Jesus and that all people will die hopefully when they are old like grandma and go to heaven. It is the hardest thing I've ever had to go through, but I believe honesty is the best thing and the least confusing for the children.

Julie - posted on 01/15/2010

1

28

0

Vikki. I am very sorry for your loss. I have a 4 year old daughter and her father passed away when she was 1 month old. I have always been very upfront with her about this. From a very young age she has known that her daddy is in heaven and he loves us both very much. I have found some very good books for kids that talk about dying and heaven. She still wonders why he cant come over for dinner. I believe that she thinks that heaven is just a car ride away. I debated about telling her early on or waiting until she would understand it more but I think it was much less of a shock on her this way. I think it will be much easier on your son if you tell him sooner rather than later. Good luck explaining this very dificult thing to your little darling.
Julie

Stefanie - posted on 01/13/2010

29

9

1

My daughter was 22 months when my husband comitted suicide in Dec 08. Like Ellie, I told her that her daddy is on the moon watching her. She often has pretend interactions that she tells me about with her daddy. When the moon is out, she gets very excited and tells daddy hi. The only tough part is when she says things like she wants daddy to come down on a ladder to give him something. She will be 3 next month and she has been asking a lot of questions about her daddy, like favorite color and food and we definitely go through pictures and bring him up when there is something that reminds me of him. I have been wondering if I have handled this correctly, it is just so tough with the little ones, since they can't fully understand.

Laurie - posted on 01/11/2010

1

30

0

Hello,



I am so sorry for your loss.



I lost my husband when my daughter was 6 1/2 months old. ( She turned 2 in September) I have told her that her daddy is in heaven with the stars, moon and the sun. She always says there's daddy and points to the sky. I also tell her that her daddy loves her and is watching over us and that if we miss him alls we have to do is tell him by looking up at the sky and tell him that we love him and miss himand lets blow him a kiss. She loves to blow kisses to the sky to her daddy. We also say on the sunny days that daddy made the sun come out just for her. I also have pictures of my husband all over the house so that she can still see her daddy and remember him. In the mean time I am working on a book about my husband and his life so that my daughter will get to know her daddy and what he was like and his personality. When my daughter does something well I also let her know that her daddy is up in heaven watching her and is very proud of her. I tell her that one day we will all be together in Heaven again as a family. I let her know that her Daddy was needed in Heaven and that he is always with us in our hearts and watching over us.



Laurie - Ohio

Melissa - posted on 01/06/2010

7

28

0

I'm so sorry for your loss, my kids were 8,6 and 2 at the time of my husband's death. He committed suicide, so it was very unexpected for the kids. I told my youngest daddy was up in heaven and used the term died. Even after I told her (I was told my counselors to always be honest at any age), she would watch out the window and ask when daddy was coming home. It was devastating each night to tell her daddy won't be coming home anymore. Now she is almost 4 and it's been 1 year and 2 months since his death, she will say her daddy died and can associate that with killing bug (it's dead) or batteries stop working. It's amazing how much I hear the word dead, died etc now! She will say her daddy was sick, he died and is better now. I have been told they will ask more questions and really start to understand between the age of 5 and 6. It's SO difficult when you know they don't understand, but what else can we do?

Michele - posted on 08/30/2009

51

103

21

My husband died in 2007 from cancer when our son was almost 2. We discus it everyday. he knows his daddy died and we can openly talk about him and look at pictures and even tell funny stories. i often tell him if he says or does anything that Joe did. Like, "Daddy used to dip his fries inhis milkshake too!!" or "Daddy liked to wear his hat like that" I found that this allows him to feel comfortable asking questions and opens the dialouge about his Dad. It still hurts and makes me sad but I know that we can talk about our feelings in a safe and comforting way. He has even taken to informing others (his father's side of the family) of things Daddy said or did!! it gives him a sense of connection and ownership of the information he has. I hope this has helped and good luck on your journey!!

Martina - posted on 08/27/2009

4

61

0



Quoting Heather:

I tolde my son at 2 and a half that his dad died and is in heaven. He understands now, but for a while, we talked about it every day and had to really drill that his daddy is not able to come home anymore. He still loves us very much but can't be here on Earth. He watches sometimes from Heaven and wants to make sure we are doing ok. He seems fine with it now and will tell everyone who asks what happened. Grove died very suddenly too and I had to get it straight in my head before could explain it to someone else let alone our son. But I will pray very hard for you and your family. I am so sorry you are in this group with us, but glad we have resource.



 



This is what I told my little man -- that the doctors couldnt fix Daddy's boo-boos from his accident, so Jesus came to give him a new body that would have NO boo-boos. Daddy has to live with Jesus where he's always happy, but Daddy loves and misses us. And, a long time from now, when it's our turn to go with Jesus, Daddy will come and get us and we'll all be able to be together again. Still makes me cry every time I tell him, and when he asks why I tell him that I love Daddy very much and miss him and it's OK to cry when you miss Daddy.





 

Martina - posted on 08/27/2009

4

61

0

Vikki,



I just lost my husband 5 1/2 weeks ago. We have a 2 1/2 yr old boy and a girl coming in 11 days... I took the little guy to a counselor the following week and she explained it to him and told him Daddy wasn't coming home. I think it was harder on me than on him. He understands now, but he still asks about his Daddy every day. Part of me loves that he remembers him so well, and part of me just dies inside when he asks. I'm glad he'll have pictures and videos of Daddy and him, but my little girl won't have that.



No matter what, it's going to be hard and unimaginable. But, I think honesty is the best policy, even with little kids. But, let a counselor help you...

[deleted account]

tell him now!! tell him in words he can understand, and continue to talk about daddy. i not only explained death to my 10 & 6 yr olds, but also had to explain suicide and the fact that daddy ended his own life. your son will grow up knowing he can trust you and come to you for anything! the sooner the better~ it will be a HUGE weight off your shoulders and you can start to heal and go on with life together. so sorry for your loss. i know it's not easy.

[deleted account]

Vikki,
I lost my husband just exactly one month ago. We were together almost 8 years and we have 2 wonderful children. Rebecca is 3 (4 in November) and Daniel Jr is 2. My daughter kept asking where is daddy and when is daddy coming home. I finally broke down and told her what happened. And I explained to her that daddy got hurt on his motorcycle and he was never coming home. She comes back saying that is why daddy is in heaven and that he is in my heart. She is so smart and I also told her that daddy is always watching over her from Heaven. I told her that she can talk to him any time she wants.
Your son will understand. My daughter has and she understands it she does better with her emotions knowing the truth. I hoped what I said helps...

Amanda - posted on 08/07/2009

3

11

0

I am so sorry for your families loss Vicki. My children 10, 3, 18mo at the time,were present when my husband passed away of a sudden heart attack at home. (June 10, 2007) there has been no way around it in our house. We have had to talk about it. We were given some great books to read at bed time by family and friends. Sad isn't bad, Tear Soup, I Miss you and Waterbugs and Dragon flies just to mention a couple, it helped us get conversations going. These were very hard for me to read to my children at first but I think it helped them to know that it was okay to hurt and okay to cry and okay to talk about it. We also found a wonderful organization locally Solace House is a grief support center for families and children. I can't really describe how I felt when my middle son took my hand leaving group and said Jeffery lost his daddy too mom, it was just like the way I feel when I post here. I'm not the only one. My kids are generally the only ones facing a serious loss like this at school or on our street. But at group they feel like everybody else. It has been the hardest for me with my daughter who's now 3 because she wants to discuss it constantly but I know she's just trying to understand in her own way. She seems to need the most reassurance. She also shares with anyone who will listen what she has experienced. I am learning to take it in stride. I am sorry that we have to be here. But you've helped me by letting me share. Take your time and keep reaching out to people. Hugs.

Tashaunta - posted on 06/21/2009

1

6

0

Hello Vikki, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my son's father as well and, my son is almost 9 years old, which is the same amount of time his father has been gone. He passed away when I was 7 months pregnant with my son. I had the same exact problem you are having now and that was excepting the reality of him never coming back. I had a very hard time trying to handle everything on my own trying to come to terms with that but, I managed to get through it. Yes, there are times I still cry because of my son not growing up with his dad and my son is at an age where he understands what happened to his dad. In the beginning I waited until he was about 5 to tell him about it and from there on as he got older I explained in more detail to him. I had to pray for the strength to get through it all, and pray that you will find strength as well. I know it's hard especially when they ask about daddy, just give that little boy all the love in the world from and his dad,and you will be fine.

Vikki - posted on 06/09/2009

5

17

0

Hi Ellie,

Thank you for your reply. I am very sorry for your loss.

I wish i had done the same as you & said something earlier. Although i have now been able to tell him that his daddy has gone to a special place because his daddy is a very special man. I also intend 2 progress the story that this special place is up in the sky & his daddy is the brightest star. Iv been trying 2 just go with the flow & say what i can when he asks. You never no whats going on in their little minds & what there going 2 ask!! I feel the same as you, i couldn't tell him that his daddy has died, but i think it will be better when he thinks the star is his daddy as your son does the moon.

Good luck for you & your son's future

[deleted account]

My husband committed suicide march 09. my son turned 3 a month later, the night after it happened I was sitting with my father in law, drinking beer on his deck, my son came outside and asked me where his daddy was, The first thing that I saw at that moment was the moon. So, I told him that daddy was up on the moon. It's been nearly 3 months now, and I am glad that is what I've told him. Every night before bed, he goes outside to say good night to his daddy up on the moon, When we walk home from daycare in the afternoon he says 'daddy is following us home' then goes on to tell me what he is doing, "daddy is up on the moon, watching simpsons, drinking beer and eating fish and chips. and the nights that the moon isn't out he knows that "daddy has gone to visit gran and pa".
I have even told him that when he grows up and mummy gets rich, I can buy him a spaceship so he can go and visit daddy.
I know it isn't telling him exactly what happened, and I dont think I ever could. How could i explain death or suicide for that matter to a 3 year old? we are not religious. I think it was a simple way for him to see that his daddy isnt here anymore, yet he is still able to see him every night, and talk to him, and know that he is still there.

Tamra - posted on 06/03/2009

7

1

0

My daughters dad passed away from suicide in 2002 She was 1 at the time ,she has always asked what happened to him and I was never able to give her a response. Her grandmother on his side had told her he passed away in a car accident.At the age of 7 she had had a bad day at school and made the comment "I wish I was dead", something came over me I told her how her father had died.She has not had any problem with it and seems to be handling it better than I did. I think being honest is the best thing you can do.Good luck with your little guy.

[deleted account]

My daughter was 3 years old when her father passed away. She was with my grandmother when it happened. As soon as she returned home, I sat down with her and explained that her dad was in heaven. The angels came and got him and took him to heaven.

Vikki - posted on 05/17/2009

5

17

0

Thank you all for ur comments. i agree with all that u say & know i need 2 take that first step telling him. Its just taking that first step thats the hardest. I think its coz it hasn't quite sunk in for me yet that he's not coming bk that makes it hard. But reading other people story's & situations is really helping. Thank you all again

Teri - posted on 05/05/2009

28

42

3

Hi

My son, Luca is also three actually was 18 months when his Dad passed away. We decided to just have his pictures around the house, and visit the firehouse and tell him about Daddy and then as he asks questions tell him, eventually he will realize that daddy is in a different place because he cannot see him. When he is old enough to realize like my four year old, we will tell him that Daddy cant come back and that we will always love and miss him. I hope that this helped. Difficult question for me too.

Teri

Neera - posted on 04/29/2009

11

15

2

Hi Vikki. I am so sorry for your and your son's loss. It is the hardest thing you will ever have to deal with, I think because it never goes away.

My husband passed almost 4 years ago and my son was only 20 months old. He didn't ask a whole lot of questions at first but missed Daddy and could tell I was sad. I went to a grief seminar to try to prepare for the questions when they started, which they did, at around 3. They recommended being very honest but age appropriate. I have been probably more open with my son than most but I think it has helped him understand and deal with it better and now it's totally normal for him. He doesn't have a problem talking to me OR other people about his Daddy dying, how he died (without going into gross details I kept it at Daddy's heart was bad and the doctor's couldn't fix it which sometimes happens).

He may not altogether "get it" but you HAVE to let him know that Daddy IS NOT coming back. I think it's cruel to give them hope when there is none and he will appreciate your honesty and give your relationship an openness that may not have otherwise been there.

Good luck to you and your son. I know you will handle it the best you see fit and it will work out in the end. Every day is a new thing to cope with and you realize how strong you are when a few years have passed and you're still alive and kicking:)

Vikki - posted on 04/29/2009

5

17

0

Thanks prez for replying, i am very sorry for your loss.

At the moment iv just been telling him that daddy can't be here at the moment & that he's away working. But i no that will only work for so long. When ever he see's a photo of him, he ask's to see him but when i tell him we can't see daddy just now he cries, which makes it even harder for me to see my son like that. i have to hold back my tears & keep strong for him. My son is very bright for a 3 year old & i know he know's there's something going on. Before when my partner would work away my son would still talk to him on the phone, which now when he picks up the phone & wants 2 talk to daddy he can't which upsets him aswell.

I can't imagine there ever being anything in my life as hard as what im going through now, but i suppose i have to take it day by day & do what ever seem's best for my son untill he can really understand.



Vikki

Prez - posted on 04/28/2009

6

2

1

hi! Vikki,

My husband died when my son was 10 months old. now He is ten years old.i did not tell him that his dad left us, that his dad is there, and love us, just for some reason that he is not able to hold us.

sometimes he would freak out, that he needed him, he wants to hug him. play with him. all i did was to let him know that its beyond my will. i let him understand that i needed and missed his dad as much as he did.

until he is older of 8 or 9 that he learned about life and death. he still miss dad but is old enough to handle it.

prez from Taiwan

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms