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How do I explain this?

My grandmother died Friday night and Sunday we had the visitation and Monday, the funeral. At the visitation my daughter, apparently heard me talking about going to see grandma (her great-grandmother), so, when we walk in the door of the funeral home, my daughter runs to my mother and says "Nanna, where's grandma?" My mother gave me a tense look while my daughter looked around and saw her in the coffin and said "There she is! Shhh! She's sleeping." When everyone arrived and we were all talking, or when the kids were running around, she kept fussing at everyone, saying "Shhhh! Grandma's trying to sleep." That night she woke up crying and I went in to check on her and she kept saying that grandma was sleeping and wouldn't didn't wake up and it really upset her and then when she woke up that morning and we went to the funeral, she was crying, wanting to go to grandma's house and to see grandma. She didn't want to see her at that place. I tried telling her that grandma was in heaven.

"Why is she in heaven? I want her to be here?"
"Because she had a very long and full life and now she's ready for a rest."
"Why can't she just take a nap?"
"Because she's in heaven and she's with Jesus and with her family that she hasn't gotten to see in a long time."
"But what about her family here. We love her and we haven't gotten to see her in a while either." I just keep remembering when I was four and my father and I didn't really understand it until I was in the fifth grade and my school had a father-daughter dance at school and that was the first time I realized that something I was missing.

She's the youngest of the grandchildren and they all seem to understand, at least vaguely. My poor Alice is convinced that if someone goes to sleep then they'll never wake up. She has been sleeping in my bed since the visitation. How do I explain to her that, if I go to sleep, then I will wake up? She was very close to my grandmother and I need some help.

Answer Question

Asked by Razzle_Dazzle1 at 10:15 AM on Jun. 14, 2011 in Religion & Beliefs

Level 18 (5,775 Credits)
Answers (7)
  • This is her fear and grieving process. Just be there, and keep reassuring her. Eventually sooner then you think she will fine, a little time in your bed and extra hugs kisses and cuddling won't hurt.

    Answer by daps at 10:18 AM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • It is her way of figuring it all out. Death and not seeing someone is just not something that little kids can wrap their heads around very easy. Just keep hugging her and kissing her and let her have a bit of time to sleep with you. She will come to understand that losing one family member does not mean you lose them all and she will be fine. She just needs her time to figure this all out.


    Answer by Alanaplus3 at 10:23 AM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • There are some books for children on dying, that I can't remember off hand the names of them. Try your local library. They are a HUGE help. Children have a hard time figuring out eternity or forever. My second oldest's favorite cat died when she was 5 and she wanted to die to be with him. Let her know that she really didn't go to sleep and she went to be with Jesus and that is our ultimate goal in life. If she is a good person through her life, when it is her time, she too will go to be with Jesus and be able to play with her great grandmother again. I am very sorry for your loss, and your little girl telling everyone to be quiet is actually quite funny and probably helped some people through their grief.

    Answer by attap5 at 10:53 AM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • I just remember that I slept in my mother's bed for a year when my father died because he had a heart attack during the night and, when I woke up, my mother told me he had died. To me, I just saw it as my daddy kissed me goodnight and then the next morning he was gone.

    Comment by Razzle_Dazzle1 (original poster) at 12:24 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • I would probably not have used "sleep" as a description for dead. I'd check out some books from the library on explaining death to children. Good luck to you

    Answer by adnilm at 2:56 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • I didn't use sleep. When she was in the hospital and pretty much unresponsive, Alice would try to climb on the bed with her and give her a kiss and we would tell her that Grandma was sleeping, to just kiss her on the cheek and tell her she loved her, also so she wouldn't run around in the room. She got upset because I wouldn't let her kiss grandma in the funeral home. I told her to blow her a kiss. Later, when the kids were drawing pictures at the funeral home, we let them draw pictures and, for the older ones, write letters for her and we put them in the coffin with her. Alice drew a picture of Grandma as an angel, waving to her from heaven. I asked her why she drew that and she said, "Because Nanna (My mother) said that Grandma was in heaven and she was looking down at me and watching me." I did tell her that Grandma would always be watching us from heaven, even though we couldn't see her and that She would always love us.

    Comment by Razzle_Dazzle1 (original poster) at 6:43 PM on Jun. 14, 2011

  • Razzle, I recently went through the exact same thing with your with my girls grandpa. Here is how I explained it to my four and three year old. I took a glass of water and we went outside. I told my kids that we have a body and a soul, and that our body holds our soul like the glass holds water. I then dropped the glass, ( the shattered glass went everywhere so I recommend not doing this barefoot btw). I told my children that sometimes the body breaks and cannot hold the soul any longer just like the glass did. Then I pointed out the water on the ground and said, "just because the body is not holding the soul any longer does not mean the soul goes away." That really helped my kids to understand. We believe the soul goes on to the universe, but this would also be a good way to explain really any belief that believes that the soul lives on after death. Plus it is very tangible, its not just a scary idea. Good Luck.

    Answer by NightOwlMama at 1:27 AM on Jun. 15, 2011

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