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How do you explain death to a 5 year old?

My father-in law passed away bout a month and a half ago. My son still ask me when he is coming home. I have tried to explain it in every way I can think of. But he still looks for him. We were packing up his things and my son got really angery and demanded we put them back because he would need them when he got back. Any suggestions on this? My Sil told me to take him to the grave yard and let him visit the grave do you think this would be a good ideal? Im not really sure. Thanks in advance.


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Asked by izzyandbuggsmom at 6:03 PM on May. 5, 2009 in School-Age Kids (5-8)

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Answers (14)
  • Although not as bad as yours, we are having issue with my granddaughter asking about daddy. Daddy is in jail. It's heartbreaking. Hopefully someone that has some experience in this stuff can answer your question. I am sorry for your loss.

    Answer by Anonymous at 6:07 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • My step-daughter is 5. It's a good age to start understanding things. I don't know if your religious, but we tell our children about hevan. We tell them how awesome and beautiful it is and about God. That they have wings and are witht the Angels watching over us. And tell them if they want to talk to them they just pray, and they can hear us.

    Answer by MoMmY2APrince85 at 6:07 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • even if you aren't religous you can tell him that when people die they go to a special place. explain that everyone eventually dies, usually not until they are really old (that way he doesn't freak and think you will die soon, but either way when he finally understands that will probably be a fear for him) you could let him keep one or two fave things from grandpa in his room and frame a picture for him to keep in his room.

    Answer by vabchmommy at 6:10 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • We brought my oldest, who is now 5, to see my dh's grandmother's grave. We told him that she got sick and died. We are Catholic so we talk to them about Heaven and God and Jesus regularly, so for us we just explained to him that she basically went to sleep and won't wake up any more. She lives in Heaven with Jesus now. He seems to understand that she is not coming back, and I think it's easier for him to grasp because there is a "place" that she is at, know what I mean? If you aren't religious I'm not sure how you would explain it beyond the sleeping thing, sorry if I didn't help at all!

    Answer by whittear at 6:10 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • My grandma died from breast cancer when I was 5. I was very close with her and she explained to me that she was going to heaven for awhile and someday after i had grown up and lived a wonderful life I would see her again.

    My mom used to bring me to her grave site every time I asked to see her and talk to me about it.
    I think I took it well because they spoke to me about it. And made it seem like it wasn't a bad thing. My grandma wasn't hurting anymore, and I knew that.

    I wish you luck. You and your little one will be in my prayers.

    Answer by LoniRae89 at 6:14 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • I took a college psychology course in the study of death and dying. We discussed how young children should be part of the dying loved ones dying process, wake and funeral. This helps them understand that that person is not going to come back and gives them a chance to say goodbye, If your child did not attend these then I say deffinitely bring him to the grave, maybe he can say his final good byes there. When my childens grandfather died we did not have a funeral or wake, just a memorial a few months later. I bought them the book "What is Heaven". I think the book did help. I read it to them slowly, so that they could ask questions throughout it. Good Luck

    Answer by staceynoel at 6:33 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • I'm in the process of trying to explain to my brokenhearted 2 1/2 year old DD that her uncle Bri Bri who committed suicide 1 week ago is not coming home. Its so hard. She just keeps asking for him and people say shes so little, she won't remember. She remembers. She remembers everyday, she knows something is wrong and I don't know how to explain it to her.

    Answer by addisonsmom3794 at 6:58 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • First of all, do NOT tell him that you father in law "went away", "passed away", or anything similar. If you say that, it indicates that he will be coming back. Do not tell him that he went to sleep forever either...Simply tell him that his heart stopped beating, and that his body is not working anymore. You have to be very concrete about it. Tell it like it is. But make it short, and if your son has any questions, answer them as short as possible.
    It's hard to talk to kids about death, but it possible. People tend to hide the truth from their kids because they don't want them to see their parents cry and be scared. But death is a normal part of life and it is actually good for your son to see you and your husband emotional.
    You can tell him in many different ways, it is just important that he understands that your father in law will not come back. If you keep telling him this, eventually he should come to terms with it.

    Answer by LilyandEmmasMom at 8:48 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • Wow! What! Really, I 100% believe that you should tell him the truth! YOUR TRUTH! If your religious "keep it real" by telling it like it is, (HE DID GO TO HEAVEN AND ONE DAY YOUR CHILD WILL SEE HIM AGAIN!) or go with that other ladies suggestion ..make sure you include the worms too...cuz little kids should hear all that! Geez!

    Answer by malindasb at 10:52 PM on May. 5, 2009

  • I had a grandmother and uncle that died with in months of each other. What made it hard for my kids is that we had been living out of state and they had not had much time with them then a couple of months before they died we moved back and the kids got to know them. I told my kids. They knew that he was not feeling good. They knew that he was sick and so it was easy. They creamated his body so the kids did not get to say goodbye. However, my grandmother was not and they kissed her good bye if they wanted to. They were 7, 5, and 2 when they died so they had a feeling of loss. They understood that they would not be coming back that they were going to be with my dad and their father/husband. Don't keep things from kids. They need to know!! They don't have to know it all yet but that they had to go to a new place to live that we can't see them anymore.

    Answer by tichelle at 6:41 AM on May. 6, 2009

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