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How would you handle this?

For the last few months, my son and I have taken a few moments out of the day to talk about another little boy who was sick and we have even gone to see him several times. Both boys have played together to the best of their abilities (the other little boy was limited in his movement by IVs and other tubes). Within the last few days, the little boy has passed away but my son continues to want to talk to him. He gets frustrated and angry when I try to tell him that his friend is gone but I don't know what else to do.

(For the record, we are not a Christian family and we do not believe in Heaven nor Hell or angels. This is our choice so please, do not thrust any religious beliefs on us. We are having a difficult enough time as it is dealing with his friend's death)


Asked by Anonymous at 11:51 AM on Apr. 14, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

This question is closed.
Answers (12)
  • I'm sorry for your loss. Death can be difficult at any time, but it's esp. hard a child is lost.

    My son's first experience with death came at a young age. In a 3 month span we lost my uncle, MIL and family pet. We are a family of faith so our explanations did include that slant. However, that said, I will stress that the single most important thing is to be honest with your child. don't lie and say it was a trip or that his friend just 'want away.' That has a way of backfiring and creating bigger issues.

    I also think it's important to stress that there's a difference between sick with a cold or flu and terminal. We stressed to DS that most of the time we get sick and a doctor can help us get better. Sometimes, though, our bodies get too sick for even the dr to heal us. When that happens we die. We talked about how everyone dies - usually when we're older, but sometimes it happens early. (cont in next response)

    Answer by ldmrmom at 3:52 PM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • I have often wondered what a non religious family would do in explaining a death to a child. It seems too much for a child to grasp to just flat out say that the boy is dead and gone. It sound so much better to tell them the person is living with God up in heaven now. Good luck with your situation! I hope you find a way.

    Answer by Rachel24517 at 11:56 AM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • Well, for HIS sake maybe you should explain that some people believe in Heaven and angels.


    How terrible to not have the security that I have a KNOW.


    Answer by Anonymous at 11:57 AM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • I would just explain that he has passed away and that he has gone far away and there is no way to see him any more tell him he went where another loved one is that may of passed or tell him hes in the clouds now playing with other sick kids that need him or something like that. its hard to tell him thing at his age im sure hope everything will get better and easier 4 u all

    Answer by josalin at 11:57 AM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • It's probably going to take awhile for him to really grasp the concept. Just keep reiterating that he has died (we always say dead or died instead of other words that just confuse the kids). Most likely he will forget about his friend before he grasps the idea of death. I'm having a hard time coming up with things to say since it is a young child that died. All of the deaths in our family have been elderly people so it was easy to explain that they were very old and sick and people die but they they are no longer hurting or sick. It's a delicate balance of being honest but not scaring them.
    If the little boy was buried near by you could visit his grave. That might give your son closure. We visit my fil's grave every time we are visiting the family and the kids leave pictures and trinkets for him.

    Answer by justanotherjen at 12:07 PM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • Why don't you tell him he & his family have left to another state... It is difficult to explain things 3-4 yr olds!

    Answer by Rosiea81 at 12:18 PM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • It depends on the age and awareness of the child. My daughter will be three in May and we lost my mother-in-law very suddenly in February. When we go to my in-laws house, she asks about her. When she speaks to her Grandpa on the phone she asks for her. We simply say "She isn't here," and we move on. Liv doesn't ask for any more details. The other day she was looking at a picture of herself and her Grandma and she said "Oh, look...that's me! And that's Grandma. Grandma's not here", then she went about playing.

    Answer by kara_g. at 12:33 PM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • My grandmother died last February when my daughter was just 3. I do think young children can grasp the concept. I explained that when a person gets very sick or very old, their body stops working and they die.

    There is a beautiful and moving book about death for kids called The Fall of Freddy the Leaf. It is non-religious and looks at death as a part of the cycle of life. I think it is a very helpful tool to talk about and explain death for the non-Christian family.

    Answer by riotgrrl at 12:34 PM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • So why not give your son a place to talk to his friend. My chld still talks to loved ones that have passed. We tried the they aren't here talk, and it made it worse for her. Talking to them was her way of dealing with death and grief.

    Answer by anorman08 at 1:23 PM on Apr. 14, 2009

  • To Anon, although I do appreciate your response, we respect our friends enough not to force our beliefs on them and our friends (who are Christian) understand that there are things WE do not believe in. The boy's mother has agreed that the "Heaven and Hell" concept will not do my child any good. But I do appreciate your input.

    Riotgrrl, I think I will look for that book and see how well it works. We do have a plush monkey we bought for him today and he's called it by his friend's name so I'm thinking that the monkey will be his outlet for the time being. It's hard to try and explain to a child what is going on and honestly, I've had more than enough religion shoved down my throat with this situation than I care to see in a lifetime.

    Anyways, thank you ladies for your supportive words and encouragement. I will update each of you on a personal basis to let you know how each idea is working. Thank you all once again!

    Answer by Anonymous at 2:34 PM on Apr. 14, 2009