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How Do I Explain His Father's Suicide?

My husband committed suicide the end of February. The very last day, if I'm to be specific. He left behind his two sons, four and two years of age and myself. I have dealt with every emotion there is, if you can imagine it for a second. However, I know and have known that my sons have also felt the impact of his suicide. My two-year-old...not so deeply. He just asks where Daddy is. I do know it's strange for him, he's never really been apart from his father before. So I try my best to keep things as routine for him. I know that, especially at first, that was crucial for him.

My four-year-old is another story. Two years is a lot as far as maturity and just questions in general. He's obviously sad and a little confused about it all. I have explained that Daddy died and that he is in heaven. I'm pretty open and frank about the whole thing. The only part I have left out was how.

When he asked why Daddy had to die, I answered him truthfully. I didn't know. That was something only he and God knew.

However, when he asks how...I freeze. I don't know what to say. I don't want to tell him an outright lie. I was thinking maybe just that he was sick? I guess depression is a sickness. But I don't want him to be afraid the next time he or I or someone he knows got sick. I just don't know how to explain this. For about a month after my husband died, he was terrified that I wasn't going to come back. Essentially that's what happened to his father...he went to sleep and when he woke up...Daddy was gone.

How do I explain this?

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Asked by ImPhoenix at 9:24 PM on Jun. 22, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 6 (140 Credits)
Answers (17)
  • I wouldn't give details until he's older (high school). Right now he wont understand. And I'm sorry, I had to explain thatbto a seven year old a few years ago that daddy was never going to come home. Its devastating. *hugs*

    Answer by sugamama3 at 9:28 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I don't think that he is old enough or needs to know about suicide, but maybe you could say that Daddy loved him, but had a special sickness and died. It might also help to contact a therapist that specializes in children to allow your sons a safe place to talk about their feelings and the doctor can help you with tools to allow them to grieve and understand. It may not hurt to look into a group of other parents in the area that have dealt with the loss of a partner.

    Answer by amandajoy21 at 9:32 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I am so sorry that you are going through this. I cannot imagine how hard this is for you. Big Hugs!!

    I would call your pediatrician's office and speak to a nurse. Ask for some book recommendations that talk both about death and about explaining suicide to young children. He probably doesn't need a huge amount of information. Two books we have used on death are The Fall of Freddie the Leaf; and The 10th Good Thing About Barney (more about pet death but it was very comforting to my kids.)


    Answer by balagan_imma at 9:32 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • Aw, that's tough. *big hugs*

    I'd say you've thought this out very carefully and you sound like a lady with her head on straight. I don't know what to say about what happened or the grief you and little boys have gone though, it's awful to know he died of his own hand, it must make you so angry as well as sad, but I think you need to follow your heart and your common sense. I think saying he was sick would be a mistake, as you pointed out, but to say he chose to kill himself is also a bit harsh and the kids would not understand. Perhaps just keep it a mystery until they are a little older, then maybe they can wrap their heads around why people sometimes to awful things without fully appreciating all the consequences, because everything is just getting too much for them and they can't see a way out. What an awful position Fate as put you in, though, helping the little ones deal with it on top of your grief. :(

    Answer by judimary at 9:33 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I am so so sorry for your loss. I honestly would have no idea what to do in your shoes. I've been the child in a similar situation and my mother lied to me about how they died till years later and it hurt to have that wound reopened. So my only suggestion is to not lie, at least not a big one ya know? If you ever need someone to talk to though, I am here. PM if you ever need someone.

    Answer by kimandeverrett at 9:33 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I am so sorry to hear about your loss. That is terrible. I wouldn't go into detail with him. I would tell him exactly what you were going to say, that daddy was sick. That may end the conversation who knows. Good luck with this one.

    Answer by zoomomto3 at 9:33 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I am very sorry about what you and your children are going through :( If it were me, I would speak to a therapist that works with both children and adults for my own good, and ask their advise about how to handle this matter and/or go with him to see the therapist.

    Answer by Namaste17 at 9:36 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I'd hate to see him blame himself for "not being a good boy" or "daddy didn't love me enough". Ours was a car accident so slightly different but I'd reccomend a therapist or children's grief group.

    Answer by sugamama3 at 9:44 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • Yeah, I wish my husband had gotten into a car accident or had been sick or SOMETHING other than suicide. You know? And I am definitely afraid of my son thinking he wasn't enough for him to stay alive. Hell, I'm sometimes really angry and sad and hurt that we weren't enough...that at the very least, our two beautiful boys weren't enough for him to stay alive.

    Yeah...I'll definitely look into a therapist. So far, I've been good with everything else. He started acting out a lot and I put him in Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai classes and he's been a lot better. Plus, I'm getting a lot better at positive discipline and figuring out my sons' personalities and everything is looking better bit by bit.

    We do talk about him and every other question is answered as honestly as possible....just....I didn't think the how question would be asked so soon.

    Comment by ImPhoenix (original poster) at 9:52 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

  • I would check with a child psychologist or counselor and see what their opinion is. Sometimes it is better to let them know the truth and just answer the questions they ask. It is Ok to not know the answers, a simple " I don't know, but he sure loved you. " Might help to redirect his thoughts and feel more secure. It is normal to have questions, it is good he is asking things. I send you a big hug and condolences. Time will help him heal. If you are OK then he will be OK. Keep you chin up for him and help him to redirect any scary sad thoughts to something strong and positive. And a ton of hugs............. It hurts to type this, my kids lost their father when they were 8, 10 and 12. Just keep reassuring them that you are all OK. They will get their cues from you. It will help them if you are strong. PM me anytime. You are not alone......

    Answer by LeJane at 9:53 PM on Jun. 22, 2011

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