Death and young children

kav

Distinguished Member
How do you deal with it? I lost my grandfather last week and after I got back from a few days in Ireland for the funeral I had to explain to my kids why they wouldn't see great-grandad again. It wasn't very straightforward - it's hard enough as an adult dealing with that stuff, but with kids they have a million questions and I have no decent answers for them.

My wife bought a book which was recommended to her, but it was utterly crap. It was about an old man who was friends with two young kids, and they loved visiting his house to see all his strange and unusual things. I presumed the story would be that the old man died and the children had to get used to that, but no, it turns out that it was about a butterfly made from glass that the man let the children borrow, then one day he asked for it back, and when they (grudgingly) gave it back, he blew on it and it came alive and flew away. They were utterly confused by the end of the story as to what that had to do with death, and before I could even start to explain what the story meant I had to first explain what a metaphor was, and how the butterfly was a metaphor etc etc...ridiculous to have to do all this for a story supposedly aimed at young kids - and that's before I even get to how it relates to the death of their great-grandad. :facepalm:

Anyway, perhaps you know of a book that deals with the subject better than the one we got, or have some stories of your own you can relate. :thumbsup:
 

Jenn

Novice Member
Well it's not quite the same situation as losing a close family member but I had to explain to our son why our cat didn't come home from the vet.

I just told him that she'd was not very well and that she went up in the sky where she'd be better and she could chase butterflies and stuff but she could never come back down. But if he looked in the sky at night, she'd be the brightest star looking down on him.
He seemed satisfied with that but then again he's only young and I don't know if that'd work with older children.

I think sometimes it may be worth just being "straight" and say that when people get very sick or very old sometimes they die. So we can't talk to them or see them again but we can think and talk about them and hopefully one day (in a long time) when we die, we may see them again.

If you answer as much of their questions as you can, it should put their mind and worries at rest. They may be sad still but do as you would anyone, hug them and be there for them and they'll deal with it too. Children are resilient.
 

shodan

Distinguished Member
I intend to be as completely straight forward and honest as I can be.
But I'm sure it'll not be easy as I'll probably be grieving as well. But I don't really see the point in gilding the lilly about something as permanent as death!
 

DIYlady

Distinguished Member
My mother died when my son was small. She had been ill for a while (cancer) and my son was quite close to her. I expected him to be very upset when I told him she had died and that we would not be able to see her again. To be honest he was a bit sad, but probably more in sympathy with me, and he very quickly moved on. As long as your son feels secure he will be fine, the whole world is new and exciting and this may be a sad bit but other things will quickly eclipse it.

You will on the other hand find it much harder and my sympathies are with you
 

Berties

Banned
I presumed the story would be that the old man died and the children had to get used to that, but no, it turns out that it was about a butterfly made from glass that the man let the children borrow, then one day he asked for it back, and when they (grudgingly) gave it back, he blew on it and it came alive and flew away.

I'm confused too.

What about the movie "Up"

So we can't talk to them or see them again but we can think and talk about them and hopefully one day (in a long time) when we die, we may see them again.

Bringing them up religious? By saying that you're already teaching them about the after life, which means they'll more readily accept further religious teachings..
 

Jenn

Novice Member
Bringing them up religious? By saying that you're already teaching them about the after life, which means they'll more readily accept further religious teachings..

I was brought up going to Church on Sundays, and weekly religious lessons with our local priest. And I'm so not religious today that I refused to get married in a Church.
So your brainwashing theory doesn't hold.

Anyway, there's no religious side in what I said, it's more to do with our energy going somewhere after death, whether it is staying around but we can't detect it, or going to a different dimension or whatever I don't know. No harm in hoping you might find your loved ones again.

Or are you the type who doesn't tell someone in tears that "things will be ok" when you don't know if they will or not?
 

Berties

Banned
No harm in hoping you might find your loved ones again.

I certainly wouldn't say "once you're dead you're worm food" but neither would say something that points to the after life or the idea of a soul or heaven.
 

quarry2006

Well-known Member
I think you should be straight with them and tell him that he's died, that people get old and die and it's perfectly natural. If you have a belief system then comfort them with that (my mum died when my daughter was two; she thinks her nan is now a star in the sky). My dad died three months back and the kids have accepted this with no problem - but then I dare say you were closer to your grand-dad than I was to my father :(

I am sorry for your loss. We each deal with death in our own way so I won't patronise you with cliches - best wishes, though, in getting through this.
 

kav

Distinguished Member
Thank you, and my condolences to you too. What you described is how I did it - explained that he had gotten old and died. My daughter asked if it was "because he used Smoking Kills" (what she calls cigarettes due to the big label on them) and I told her yes it was linked to that. Aside from that they didn't have much to say and weren't really very upset, but I wasn't expecting anything else - I'd rather that than them being devastated.

Regarding the belief system, I don't have one myself, though my wife and wider family too, so they've been taught about it from two aspects. My family tells them about how Grandad is in heaven etc, whereas I focus on what Grandad taught them and his legacy - that family is the most important thing, and that he wants them to remember that and always look after one another, doing a job right, etc etc.

My daughter then asked if she could write him a letter and send it in a rocket up to heaven and maybe Grandad could write one back and throw it down from up there...it's interesting (and funny) to see how they deal with the concepts.
 

Dextur

Distinguished Member
First of all my condolences Kav.

Secondly, this is one of those times being religious really makes life easier, playing the whole heaven card really allows you to soften the blow for kids.

I really didn't expect to have to deal with death yet, but my 4 yr old is already asking.

I don't see I hav any choice but to tell her the truth, I've dealt with it with dead sheep and. Fox in the field, I'll need to translate that to humans.

I guess ultimately you have to be honest with them about th reality, bu sugar cost it and distance them from the realities of stuff I don't want to elaborate on while you're still grieving yourself.

I think, lie most things, honesty is the best policy.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
My father died just over two years ago. He was a great-grandfather to my two grandsons, at the time of his death the children were 10 and 5, my father was a grand old 91 years of age.

They used to visit him every week and he idolised them. The youngest boy was a little confused as to why he would not be able to see him again. The elder cried but all in all he took it very well, he managed to explain to his brother what had happened and even asked and did indeed attend my father's funeral. I think in the end they both realised that my father was quite old and not in good health. However, my son took his grandfather's death very badly and I think both boys took comfort in their father's tears.

A couple of weeks ago I had to take the boys home and had to drive past my father's old house as their usual way home was blocked by an accident. As we passed the house my eldest grandson said 'Grandpa was a great grandfather'. I replied that he was their great-grandfather. 'No', he said, 'he was a great grandfather'. Brought me to tears.

If the children are not too young then I would let them grieve with you.
 

campy mccamper

Well-known Member
My Dad died when my son was 3, it was tough for him as he had spent pretty much every day with my Dad while I was at work and they were very close. We ended up telling him that Grandad was very poorly and had to go away as we didn't think he was old enough to handle the concept of death. My son is 5 now and recently asked me if Grandad had gone away or was he was dead so I told him the truth
 

Miss Psyclodia

Standard Member
I recently went through this myself (3 days ago) I know this sounds bad but due to my Sons Grandfathers dog dying not so long ago when addressing the death of his grandfather and what had happened he understood better. We did speak of heaven and how grampy was up there with Molly(the dog) and it did make him feel at ease.
A good cry and some ice cream helped him out and I also told him he would not be atteneding the funeral but we could go to his grave a different day to put some flowers down, which he really wanted to do.

I think it's important to deal with Death with Children openly, and let them talk of good memories and if they feel upset, to express it.
 

kav

Distinguished Member
Sorry to read of your loss, my condolences.

Oddly we had a similar situation ourselves with our pet rabbit dying recently, so we used one event to help them get over the other. Sad times, but hopefully you were still able to have some sort of Christmas.
 

Miss Psyclodia

Standard Member
Sorry to read of your loss, my condolences.

Oddly we had a similar situation ourselves with our pet rabbit dying recently, so we used one event to help them get over the other. Sad times, but hopefully you were still able to have some sort of Christmas.


We had a lovely christmas thank you and my condolences to you also x
 

HydroSpook

Novice Member
Sorry for your loss. I lost my Dad when my daughter was 3 and thought it best to be honest with her about death and not sugar coat it. When I explained to her about her grandad she surprised me with her level of understanding and related it to Simba in the Lion King when his father - Mustafa died.
 

Trollslayer

Distinguished Member
Hydro - a really good idea, something like the Lion king helps children relate to things.
I guess maybe an adult trying to explain the cycle of life may not get across as well.
 

Nozey

Member
Kav, If you don't mind me asking how did it all go for you in the end ?

I've got two boys 7 and 5, and we've lost 3 Great Grandma's recently and prior to that all 3 of our cats died in the space of 8 months. I was really suprised how well the kids took it when we explained what happened. There were the obvious "why ?"'s and "Where are they now?"'s and I found it harder to deal with these questions than the kids did at taking the news. Partly because I try not to influence them too deeply on what to believe so had to play a "nobody really knows" type answer.

Anyway - I really hope it all turned out okay - I expect it did as kids never cease to suprise you, in dealing with things you expect to be difficult.
 

kav

Distinguished Member
Kav, If you don't mind me asking how did it all go for you in the end ?

It went fine mate, it was harder for me telling them than them hearing it I think. They didn't know him well as they had only met him once, so it didn't have a huge impact on their daily routine, which I think is the biggest thing with young children. As I said above, they were more upset about their rabbit dying - they spent hours crying for her - because she was a much closer part of their lives.

My wife's side of the family are continually pressing the god angle, so when they say things about heaven or god I just say that some people believe that, and it's a nice way to give people comfort. I don't see the need to let them know I think that's a load of balls at this point. :)
 

GloopyJon

Distinguished Member
It went fine mate, it was harder for me telling them than them hearing it I think.

I think this is the real reason why people try to sugar-coat things like death for children. If you just tell them the truth, they can understand and accept it. Stories like the ones cited in this thread ("the brightest star in heaven" etc) - which I don't want to denigrate as I don't want to offend anybody - only cause more confusion and questions, since you will quickly reach a point where it doesn't actually add up in a child's mind (as has been illustrated by the incidents recounted here).

I also think that people should have more respect for children's intelligence and capacity for understanding these things. They tend to be a lot more open-minded than most adults!
 

Jenn

Novice Member
Stories like the ones cited in this thread ("the brightest star in heaven" etc) - which I don't want to denigrate as I don't want to offend anybody - only cause more confusion and questions, since you will quickly reach a point where it doesn't actually add up in a child's mind (as has been illustrated by the incidents recounted here).

I can only say it didn't confuse my son.

Sugar coating things like death for young children in my opinion is no different than telling them that Santa brought them presents at Christmas, rather than "Mum and dad went to Toys R us and paid £50 for your Buzz lightyear so don't go breaking it".

He's now 4.5 years old and he knows that animals and people die, but he's old enough to understand it and not instantly worry about it.
 

Nozey

Member
kav said:
My wife's side of the family are continually pressing the god angle, so when they say things about heaven or god I just say that some people believe that, and it's a nice way to give people comfort. I don't see the need to let them know I think that's a load of balls at this point. :)

Nothing's easy is it ? - my eldest recently declared he doesn't believe in god, but he does believe in Santa ! - I didn't comment because that's almost certainly our fault playing up the Santa thing for the youngest - oh well he'll soon learn the truth and never trust his parents again ! #baddad
 

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