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How do you explain death to a two year old?

My daughter's fish died almost a week ago and she still keeps asking me where he is. I explain to her every time that Name died, that means he went bye-bye forever. Obviously she doesn't understand, but I have no idea how else to address this.

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Asked by jellyphish at 2:52 PM on Nov. 6, 2009 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (8)
  • I might change the "bye bye forever" to "we won't see him again" - - - only because if you "go bye bye" to go to work, the store, etc, you don't want her to worry that it's forever. Otherwise, it sounds like you're doing all you can to help her understand - at 2, she's going to have a hard time with it. Maybe get her a new fish?

    Answer by TiffanyMarie80 at 3:09 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • Are you religious at all? If so, you can tell her that her fish went to live with God and that even though she'll miss him God has some very awesome aquaiums and fish toys for her fishy to play with.

    Get another fish to distract her? Maybe one that wont die as easily? Betas are pretty and live longer than goldfish.

    Answer by Gealach at 3:10 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • The same thing happened to my 2-year-old the other week... What's worse is, she caught me flushing the fish down the toilet! I paniced and told her that Dori was swimming back to the pet store to visit and that we had to go pick him up the bext day. Probably not the best answer you'll get :-) She just snuck up on me and it was the 1st thing that came to mind. We went and picked up "Dori" at the pet store the next day. I'm sure she would somewhat be able to comprehend death and dying, but I'll just wait another year or 2. As a parent, I just want her to hold onto that innocence as long as she can. Don't hate on me Anons ;-P

    Answer by kenzie07 at 3:13 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • kenzie07, I agree with you. Definitely would have gotten another fish. 2 y/o's don't usually understand death, so pretty much what you'd be explaining, they would not have a way to process or store that information. I would be more afraid of instilling a fear of me or them dying. Fish don't cost that much. Some kids, you might get away with "they went on vacation, or to visit their families". Good luck regardless. :)

    Answer by doodlebopfan at 3:47 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • She might be a bit ahead of where Kiddo was at that point but all I can give you is what we had to do for Kiddo. This isn't death but it is long-term and maybe you can modify it for you. We moved, he constantly asked to go to someone else's house. Obviously, that wasn't an option. My plan of attack? "Not today." Just keep giving that answer, changing it up a bit, until he reached a point where I could explain it better. At which point it became, "Do you remember that really long trip we took? We'd have to take that really long trip every time we want to go to ____'s house. We can't do that. It just isn't possible." Ways to implement this plan for your situation?
    "Where is Name?" "He's gone." Change the subject. A few months later when her vocabulary and cognitive skills are better, "Where is Name?" "Name left and can't come back." Give hugs, kisses, and change the subject. Hugs to the babe! : (

    Answer by Pishyah at 4:10 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • I don't know. My cousin died when Gabi was roughly 2. They were pretty close.

    I told her that Tina was not coming back, and that she was an angel now-watching over us.

    Gabi is now 5, and has took to calling Tina a butterfly. Tina loved butterflies, and Gabi knows this. So, she started telling people, that when you die, something you become a butterfly.

    Answer by MissG9 at 4:13 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • Just remind her over and over again that he died, and isn't here anymore. If you want another fish have her pick a new friend out, and if you don't she will eventually move onto something else to obsess over. You are doing good, you just have to be honest, and it may take 100 times before it clicks or becomes boring.

    Answer by mmoleader at 4:24 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

  • My grandmother passed away in September. We explained to the boys that she was going to live with the angels (not that they really know what angels are) and when we went to the funeral, we told them that we were going to say goodbye to her before she went to be with the angels.

    When they asked about her a week or two later I said we wouldn't see her anymore because she lives with the angels now and they seemed to be ok with that.

    Answer by twinclubmom at 8:39 PM on Nov. 6, 2009

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