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How to explain death to a child

On saturday we lost my grandma to alzheimers. She was older and passed in the night. I have two children that were very close with her. My older daughter was very close with her and is 6 years old. I havent told her yet because I am afraid how she will react. She has asked me a few times why I am so sad and I keep telling her that I got some sad news and that I will tell her at another time( I was waiting for my husband to come home so we could talk to her together) I dont know how to start the dialouge or even if I should tell her at all? Should I wait for her to ask me? Or should we just sit her down and tell her that grandma passed away and is in heaven with god etc.?

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JNLmomme09

Asked by JNLmomme09 at 10:25 AM on Feb. 12, 2012 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

Level 11 (608 Credits)
Answers (9)
  • I guess depending on your religious beliefs, that's what u would tell her....we don't believe you go to heaven when u die so I jus tell my daughter we will see them again when Jesus comes...sometimes shell ask a little more but she's only 3... I think a 6 yr old would understand a little more and I don't think there's anything wrong with being honest with her...especially if she was close with her.....so sorry for you loss.
    calliesmommie

    Answer by calliesmommie at 10:30 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • I'm very sorry for your loss.
    When you tell your daughters, and I think your should tell her soon, keep it very simple. Grandmother was sick and now she's in heaven, or something that works for you.
    meooma

    Answer by meooma at 10:42 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • Did she know Grandma was ill? If so, then start by reminding her of that. If not, then tell her she was sick and couldn't recover from it. Be up front and honest. If you cry through the whole thing ,that's fine. Tell her it is sad because you all loved to be able to visit and see her. But she is in heaven now (if you truly believe that). There are nice children's books you can read to her about death. Go to the library and get a few, either together or before talking to her. You can also let her draw pictures about, or write a story about, Grandma to let her express her feelings. And you can plant something in the spring in memory of Grandma. Tell her you can think of Grandma everytime she sees it.. This is especially nice if Grandma had a favorite plant or flower. Talk about her often and answer any questions as honestly as you can. GL I am sorry for your loss.
    whitepeppers

    Answer by whitepeppers at 10:46 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • Being honest is best for her. My son was close to his great grandmother he was 3 years old at the time she passed. I sat down and explained to him that grandma is in Heaven now with Jesus. (not sure of your religious beliefs). My son is 6 now and still has questions which I will always answer. We keep great grandma's memory alive....by sending balloons to Heaven for great grandma. We do this on Christmas Eve. Just be open and honest with your children and assure them grandma is okay and at peace. Allow them to get their feelings out and just let them know you are there for them. Try and talk of the good times with grandma make a scrap book or something that they can feel as a memory of them with her. I hope this may help. I am so sorry for your loss....
    Kellyjude1

    Answer by Kellyjude1 at 10:51 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • She already know you got some sad news, and that you'd tell her WHY later. Keep your promise to her. Kids are a lot smarter that 99% of people give them credit for. Here's what I'd say:

    Honey, I'm ready to tell you why I'm so sad. This is not going to be easy for me. You know that grandma has been sick? (wait for her to nod) Well, she died on Saturday. She was really old and really sick and her body just stopped working. She doesn't hurt anymore, and she remembers us all again.

    If you wanted to you could add something about heaven and god. That is not my belief system, so that's why I left it out of my suggestion.

    Hugs and compassion to you and your family in this tough time.
    Rosehawk

    Answer by Rosehawk at 11:11 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • My MIL died when my twins were barely 4. I explained that she had died (she had been ill for as long as they had known her). Their first reaction was to go and help he. I explained that we couldn't help her because she wasn't there any more and that she was o longer suffering. I then explained that we would be going to say good bye to her at the funeral. At the funeral they were both very subdued and very impressed by the solemnity of it all. Only one of them wanted to see her to say good-bye (we didn't offer, she asked)?

    Two weeks later, we were visiting grandpa. The room
    winterglow

    Answer by winterglow at 11:15 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • The room at the end of the upstairs corridor was always grandmas sitting room. LĂ©onie (who has Down Syndrome) went upstairs to go to the toilet, saw the open door and silently went and closed it. Please do not underestimate your children's understanding of death.
    winterglow

    Answer by winterglow at 11:17 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • You tell her that you have some sad news. Grandma is dead, and she won't get to see her anymore. Ask her to tell you a favorite memory of Grandma, and explain that she will always have Grandma in her heart.
    rkoloms

    Answer by rkoloms at 11:26 AM on Feb. 12, 2012

  • Every one of these ladies has great suggestions on how to handle this. Children are smart and will understand what you're trying to say, even if you don't think you use the right words. My daughter was 5 when my mother passed. She had cancer so my daughter knew she had been sick. I had explained Heaven, and Grandma Lynn being sick, and God was going to take her home so she wouldn't have to be in pain anymore before my mother actually passed. When it did happen, my daughter was somewhat prepared for it. She handled it very differently when I first came home and told her. She actually was HAPPY (which, to be honest, made me a bit angry) because she had understood everything I'd been preparing her for and she knew that now Grandma was no longer hurting and would be watching over her. At the funeral, however, she was a wreck and cried hysterically through the whole thing. You have to let your DD handle it how she feels she needs.
    mlmkjw

    Answer by mlmkjw at 12:05 PM on Feb. 12, 2012

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