Teaching my son about death

Michelle - posted on 02/22/2010 ( 12 moms have responded )

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My father just passed away a few days ago. I have a 3 year old son. Im trying to teach him about death. I dont want to shelter him from it but I also want to be tactful, respectful and positive about it. The only thing I have told him is that "Papa lives in Heaven now with Jesus" and I have let him send up "balloon mail" to heaven as well. Does anyone have any other suggestions as to help him understand what is happening?

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Lisa - posted on 02/25/2010

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I am sorry to hear of loss. Teaching a child under five about death is not easy, but there is help. Many local funeral parlors have trained personnel who can help you talk with your young child about death. I find that allowing a child under five time for either art therapy or play therapy helps them to understand that grandpa will not be with him in a physical sense. Lots of extra love and time to both you and your son.

Laura - posted on 02/25/2010

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We recently had 2 deaths in our family. My twins are 5 years old and we explained it as you did. Grandma lives in heaven now with Jesus and then we tied in our other relatives in heaven, i.e., my angel son, my dad, and others. This seemed to give them a sense of comfort.

For you, I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my Dad 11 years ago and I really miss him. Hugs!

Harsha - posted on 02/25/2010

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Sorry to hear about your dad. In a similar situation. My dad passed away a month ago and i had to explain that granddad is gone to gods house and his in a better place, thatgod chooses the best ppl just like how we like all the things. But still you will see that your child will still ask more question. I don't know how 2 make son grieve properly for his granddad

Kari - posted on 02/24/2010

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I would get a book if you can that is at your son's level about where people go once they reach heaven so it puts their little minds at peace. We had to just put our dog down Monday and it's been to us like losing a person! She was in our lives for almost 16 years and our son has had a very hard time with it. There is this book called "Dog Heaven" and my girlfriend gave it to me to have him read and it really helped him and put his mind at ease. Now he knows that our Rockie is having fun and free to run in doggy heaven and looking down at us with a smile. :)

Michelle - posted on 02/24/2010

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Thank you everyone for your suggestions....and your condolences. I greatly appreciate it.

H.J - posted on 02/24/2010

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My sincere condolences.
There are some wonderful books around about just that subject here are a couple of titles I have used with a little boy at work who lost his grandpa recently.
Why Did Grandpa Die?: A Book About Death ~ Barbara Shook Hazen
I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas
Always and Forever by Alan Durant
What's Heaven by Maria Shriver
There is a great one called Passing On that I use constantly but I cant think of the author at the moment.

Books help you to explain when you cant find the words.

Stacey - posted on 02/23/2010

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I am sorry about the loss of your father hon. I agree, you are doing just fine for right now. A 3 yo doesn't have the understaning to be able to fully comprehend what death means. The best thing is to make yourself available for when he has questions. Answer them honestly, as you already are. But only answer the question he is specifically asking, don't add to it. You and your family are in my prayers.

April - posted on 02/22/2010

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when my mom passed away i explained to my daughters that there gramma was now an angel always looking out for them. i told them that it was ok to be sad or hurt and encouraged them to talk about her as often as they liked. i told them that she was sick and that we all have a time when we pass and that some people pass sooner than others. it was suggested to me to create a special space in the yard where they could go and talk to gramma if they wanted. the most important thing i found was letting them get out there emotions and to feel that they could talk about it to me. they still have there moments but it has been four years now and they are dealing with it quite well. also each of my kids have something special of their gramma's that they could hold hold onto and cuddle when they are upset. hope this helps...

Stephanie - posted on 02/22/2010

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Sorry to hear about your dad. 3 year olds have difficulty relating to the permenentcy of death. You've done an excellent job keeping the explanation simple. I would recommend the book The Fall of Freddy the Leaf. You can use it to springboard conversation. Keep allowing your child to ask questions and stay honest in your answers.

Amalia - posted on 02/22/2010

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i had the same problem hun sorry about your dad. My dad died new years day and i lived with him with my daughter so she was always asking questions so i told her that hes in a better place and hes always with you you just cant see him..she thinks thats pretty cool..so now she talks to him and says goodnight to him..im happy for her to be like that..and your son will come to terms with it..hope that helped.

Teresa - posted on 02/22/2010

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sorry for your loss. At that age i don't think they are able to understand what death is. They can understand that someone is not around and won't be seen, but death itself probably not.
I would keep talking about it. If she asks where grandpa is tell her the truth. You will probably have that conversation again and again until the age of 6 or so when they start to understand what death is actually about.

Alison - posted on 02/22/2010

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So sorry to hear about your father.

It sounds like you are doing a great job so far. I have not been here yet, but I would suggest going to the library. There should be some good books out there. I just did a google search "teaching children about death". Tonnes of stuff came up.

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