How to explain the death of a sibling

Kellie - posted on 07/17/2009 ( 7 moms have responded )




My son Anthony died from pneumonia at 17months back in 2005. My daughter was born in Dec 2006 and is a very very smart cookie. She sees pictures of my son everywhere around the house and knows that he is her brother. A few months back I sat her down and asked her if she knew she had a brother and she told me yes. I asked her if she knew where he was and she told me that he died. I immediately welled up and panicked a bit. I asked her who told her that and she told me that it was her aunt. I didn't really know what to say at that point and was just crying like a baby and freaking her out. She asked me what was wrong and I just told her I was sad.

Well, last night I sat her on my dresser to get her away from our crazy puppy and she saw a picture of my son. She asked who it was (she's never sure if it's her or Anthony) and I told her it was "Brother". She asked "Where is he?" I didn't know what to say. She followed up with "Can he come?" I can't help but feel awful about the whole thing. We're trying to have another baby right now because I believe she is so deserving of a sibling. It's very hard for me that she was robbed of her older brother. How can I explain it to her? I cried my eyes out last night, and luckily I have a supportive husband to help me through the hard times. We're at a loss for words though. I know we should be honest, but I'm afraid of telling her that he got sick and passed away because I don't want to freak her out when she gets sick. She's had pneumonia twice now and has asthma so she gets sick fast and often. We are not religious, but we're ok with telling her that he is on heaven, but then there's explaining what heaven is and all the questions that will follow. She is so smart, but I question what she actually understands in terms of "he died". What do we do?!! Just the thought of having to go through this with another baby is hell, but she needs a sibling so badly I'm willing to go through the emotional torture myself. Any advice would be appreciated. I don't know anyone else that has been in this situation so I'm stuck just winging it! PLEASE HELP!! Thanks!!


Kate CP - posted on 07/17/2009




When a beloved family member dies it's very hard for children to understand that they've gone away and they can't ever come back. After all, Mommy always comes back and so does Daddy and so on. The best thing to do is to make it very simple for her and don't be afraid of freaking her out. DON'T TELL HER DYING IS LIKE GOING TO SLEEP. I've known of lots of parents who tell their kids this and then their children are terrified to sleep. The way I explained death to my daughter was this: Everything dies. Plants die, animals die, and sometimes the people we love die. When some one dies they leave their body here on earth and go on to a new life (or heaven or go to meet God or whatever you prefer). When a person dies people get sad because that means the person who died can't come back any more. People get sad when a person dies because it means they will miss them. In your case I would make sure you and Daddy are there to talk to her and just keep it calm and simple. Seeing you or your husband cry will really freak her out. She needs to see that death is a part of life and it doesn't scare Mommy and Daddy. I would probably say something like "Anthony is your brother and he died before you were born. He left his body here on earth and he went to a new life with God. Mommy and Daddy miss him very much, but he'll always be in our memories." If your son has a grave, if you can handle it, it may be worth visiting with your daughter. Then she can see her brother's body is here on earth but his spirit is with God. Then she knows she can visit him and talk to him and leave flowers.

Its nothing like losing a child or even a family member, but when my cat had to be put to sleep I was terrified it would traumatize my daughter. They were VERY close since the day she was born and I was worried she would just freak out. When he died I let her see his grave in the backyard and explained to her that Evin had died and his body was here in the ground but his spirit is with God. I was pretty upset about the whole thing so it was hard for me to keep it together but my daughter just patted his headstone, said "Goodbye Evin" and was fine. She asks about him every so often and I just remind her that Evin died. Death is a hard concept for adults to grasp but for some reason kids generally seem to accept it easier. I wish you the best with this. I will light a candle for your son.

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Tammy - posted on 02/28/2013




my son passed away a year ago march 14th,2012. the 1 year anniversary is soon coming. i have a 6 year old daughter and a 15 year old son. my dauughter talks about her brother Brody often. my son does not. i had some ask what we were going to do when that day came. is there something i need to do to for the kids? i am lost. Brody had cerbal palsey. He was the center of the family. it is killing me because i dont know how to bring the aniversay day up?or how to handle any of it.

Michelle - posted on 07/17/2009




I am so sorry for your loss! I have tears reading this:( I have a 6 month old daughter who is actually our second attempt. We lost our first baby at 9 weeks into the pregnancy. I plan to tell my daughter about it when she gets older so that she knows. I feel she has the right to know that she would have had a brother or sister. Of course my situation is a little different. I would explain it in the best way how. Maybe check our your local bookstore. I know there are children's books that explain death and can be rather helpful! I just can't think of the names at the current moment. I wish you the best of luck and you'll figure out the right words to use:)

Susan - posted on 07/17/2009




I too am sorry for your loss. My kids know their grandpa is in Heaven but my oldest was a baby when he died. We have lost other relatives in their years and I do know at the funeral home we have been to they have little books on how to talk to children about death. I'm sure you should be able to find something along those lines at a funeral home or a bookstore. As I too am a Christian it is easy to explain where our loved ones have gone. I hope you find the right solution for how to talk to your daughter about death.

Heidi - posted on 07/17/2009




I am so sorry for your loss. I can not imagine the pain that you feel. I myself am a christian as well. Children are very smart and preceptive just as you have mentioned. I feel that children understand way more than we do at times because they are so pure and innocent. It is hard to advise you sense you are not religious. However, I will keep you and your family in my prayers and hope that some how, some way you can make the best decision for yourselves and your daughter. Sorry, I couldn't be more helpful.

Momma - posted on 07/17/2009




When my oldest niece was 5 my mother died of cancer and we were all afraid of the same thing. She kept asking where is Nanna? It was very hard for me to not tell her so I did. I explained to my niece that when people get sick sometimes different people have a harder time fighting infections but it doesn't mean that when she would get sick that she would die. I told her Nanna was in a place where she couldn't feel pain. Which at the age of your daughter I wouldn't really recommend because my niece didn't understand that we couldn't get on a plane and fly to that place. Explaining things to young children are hard because every one of them will take the news differently. It was a very heart breaking thing and the same as you, I'm dreading the day I tell my daughter about her brother that didn't survive their birth. Good luck I know its hard.

Megan - posted on 07/17/2009




There was recently a death of a 3-year old at our church, which made my daughter (then 2) ask questions about where she is now. Since I'm Christian, it may be a little easier to explain my own beliefs of heaven and all, but I simply told her that she is in a great place with God, called heaven, where we will all be someday. I told her God put us here on earth first, then will take us to heaven, where it will be perfect and wonderful, and that's when we'll meet God. Of course some of it scared her, but by reassuring her that she'll know people there and that it will be fun, she's much more comfortable with the whole thing. She sometimes asks what other people are there, and that's when I name off relatives that have passed away, even if she doesn't know them. It's a lot for anyone to go through, and I couldn't even imagine it, let alone a small child! Best of luck finding the words and courage to explain things to your daughter.

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