September 16, 2008,
K.B. asks from Milwaukee, WI on September 12, 2008
How Do I Explain Death to a Two Year Old?
My daughter will be three in December. We have recently learned that her godfather with whom we have a close relationship has terminal cancer. He was given a year if chemo works, but after 6 weeks of chemo we learned today that it was not working and he may only have a few months left. When our cat passed away a few months ago, I tried to explain, but she was confused as to what I was trying to say that I ended up telling her that her cat had moved to a new place to be with her cat family. She accepted that because we have out of state family and is okay with that idea. Should I just wait until it happens or try to prepare her in advance to make it easier. I have no idea what to say since I couldn't even get her to understand about her cat. We are so close to our friend (her godfather) and his wife and their four year old son that I can't even begin to take this in myself. I'm numb.
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So What Happened?™
I am so overwhelmed with all of this, but I wanted to let you all know that I have read all of your wonderful responses. I realize now, from reading the responses that we can get through this and want to thank you for helping me to realize that. I know that my daughter probably won't be affected as deeply as we are/will be and the best approach is to keep it simple. I think that I'll let her know that her godfather is sick and when the time comes, we'll use the "moved to Heaven" approach. Thank you!
H.G. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Death is a hard concept to explain to kids, especially young ones. I am a play therapist and some of the best ways I encourage parents to talk to their kids about death is through books. There are many, many books that are about death that you can read to your child. Then after you read the story together, you can tell them that the character "Red" is like you Godfather....he is sick.". Often, the best way is just to ask if she has any questions for you. Kids around the age of 2 and 1/2 don't really comprehend death like older kids do or like we do, so an full explaination can be scary or just really not necessary. I added a list of some books about death for preschool kiddos..you can also do a search on the internet to get some other good literature for young children. I hope this helps and I am sorry to hear about your daughter's Godfather. Cancer is such a terrible disease and is a difficult time for families. I pray the time you have left is precious.
(*there are also grief centers in the Ft. Worth area if you would like to check those out too)
Here are the books:
Brown, Laurie Krasny and Marc Brown. When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death.
This book explains death in a way that pre-school children can understand.
Bunting, E. The Happy Funeral. New York: Harper and Row.
This is an exceptionally interesting book about a little girl who participates in the rituals of her grandfather's funeral.
Clifton, Lucille (1988). Everett Anderson's Goodbye. Reading Rainbow.
An African-American boy copes with the death of his father.
Grollman, Earl A. (1990). Talking About Death. Boston: Beacon Press.
This is a most practical guide for parents and other adults who are faced with explaining death to a child while at the same time often struggling with their own feelings about death. It addresses many questions children may ask and provides suggestions for responding, keeping in mind the developmental age of the child and the unique circumstances of the individual loss. It provides read-along passages for children whose parents who may need some help finding the words to express their responses.
This book would be most helpful if read by parents first, before using the read along passages, as the author is sensitive to the grief process of the adults as they help their children cope with their own thoughts and feelings about death.
Earl A. Grollman has written many excellent books about death.
Hickman, M.W. (1984). Last Week My Brother Anthony Died. Abington Press.
Mellonie, Bryan and Robert Ingpen (1983). Lifetimes. Bantum Books.
This is a simply written and informative book about the life cycles of all living things. It tells about beginnings (birth) and endings (death) with living in between as natural and inevitable. It is a beautiful book for parents and young children to read and discuss together. It describes different lifetimes for different living things as well as lifetimes that are shortened due to unusual circumstances.
Parker, Marjorie Blain. Illustrator: Janet Wilson (2002). Jasper's Day. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
This is a beautiful book about a terminally ill dog who has been part of a
loving family. As the dog's pain becomes less amenable to medication, the
family makes a difficult decision and plans how they will spend Jasper's
last day before bringing him to the vet.
The unity of the family and its relationship to the pet who has given them
such pleasure is told poignantly but straightforwardly as they are brought
together at the final goodbye.
Powell, E. Sandy (1990). Geranium Morning. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
This is a rather confusing story about a little boy whose father dies in a car accident while going to buy geraniums to grow on his porch. While the boy is dealing with his loss, he befriends a girl whose mother is dying. After some initial difficulties they become good friends and help each other to deal with loss.
I found this story to be contrived and complicated. The language was far more sophisticated than one would expect from children ages 10-11. The story's only saving grace was the message that we need the help of others in dealing with loss.
Shook-Hazen, B. (1985). Why Did Grandpa Die? Racine, WI: Western Publishing Co.
A little girl's reaction to the death of her grandfather makes for a compelling story. There is age appropriate confusion, bewilderment and boredom with the mourning rituals. This book is good because there is a consistent honesty in the child's feelings.
Tiffault, B. (1992). A Quilt for Elizabeth. Omaha, NE: Centering Corporation.
This is a beautiful story about a little girl whose father gets sick and dies. After a while the girl and her grandmother decide to make a quilt from her father's garments. This book is highly recommended because it deals with the loss and mourning in a highly creative manner.
Vigna, Judith (1991). Saying Goodbye to Daddy. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co.
This is an excellent book about a kindergarten girl whose father dies in a car accident. She has a difficult time coming to terms with the loss. She uses denial and avoidance to diminish the pain of the loss. However, the reality of the funeral confronts her with what she is missing. Her mother and grandfather are there to help her with the confusion and denial. Because she goes through a range of emotions, this books is highly recommended.
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D.C. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
My son was three when my mom was killed in a motorcycle accident, so I had to explain death to him unexpectedly. We have talked about it over the years and he seems to understand the concept, but he never cried or did the "typical" grief things. He talks about his Nana and says he misses her and sleeps every night with a quilt she made for him.
To help him understand the death, I took him to the funeral with us. We spent some time beforehand talking about it and I had him draw a picture for her and place it in the casket. I let him see me cry (I am crying now) and explained why I was sad. I also explained why she died (she wasn't taking care of herself and wasn't wearing a helmet) and when he asks about other family members dying, we talk about taking care of our bodies and getting old and how the bodies finally wear out (like old clothes or toys). Then we talk about where the soul goes when the body can't hold it anymore.
I got some really good books to help me with this. The first was for me. It's called "When Children Grieve: For Adults to Help Children Deal with Death, Divorce, Pet Loss, Moving, and Other Losses" by John W. James and Russell Friedman.
The other books are for kids to read (but I think they are also cathartic for the adults who read them to the kids. One is "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages" by Leo Buscaglia. Another is "Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children" by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. Finally, there's "What's Heaven?" by Maria Shriver.
One of the things that I also did was go to a grief support group, offered free at my local hospital. I think that a time of grieving is important and to let your child in on your emotions -- both sad for the death and glad for their life.
My heart goes out to you. Hugs to you and your little girl.
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K.F. answers from Dallas on September 12, 2008
Maria Shriver has written a book about dying and how to help young children deal with it as well as numerous other authors. My thoughts are with you, it is a difficult thing to face, particularly leaving a wife and young child. I agree, tell your daughter that her godfather is ill. Although young, she will notice what will happen to him physically and will certainly be exposed to the grieving of his wife and son. If she somehow asks if he might die, then you answer the question but otherwise, deal with that when the time comes.
When he does pass, whether you believe in an afterlife or not, one thing you can tell a child this age is that X is in a place where he is no longer suffering. He doesn't hurt, he doesn't feel badly and while he wishes he could have stayed with his family, sometimes that is just not possible.
One place where you need to be careful is if this leads to questions about your possible death. It is instinct to reassure your child that nothing will happen to you until she is grown with children of her own but that simply is not true. I contracted a strain of pneumonia that nearly killed me two years ago. It was a chilling experience for them and me, with children who were 7, 11, and 14 at the time, realizing that they were almost left without a mother.
I think if I had ever told them unequivocally that nothing would happen to me, things would have been more difficult. We have a big family, they are not strangers to funerals so they knew things happen, accidents, illness. It is difficult at that young an age to really, really recognize that your rock may not always be there. You know your child and what she will understand. Try to anticipate the questions and have decent answers and as others have noted, keep it simple, answer questions and leave it at that.
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C.W. answers from Dallas on September 14, 2008
I'm sorry to hear about your loss. I've had a lot of death in my family. I lost my Dad last year. The best thing I did for myself was to be a part of a grief support group. I first started out at our church and they also recommend a Hospice Grief Support Group. I went to the evening grief support groups for about 6 weeks. It really helped me. If you need more time in the group, you can come back for other sessions. This may be a lot of help to you, as you could ask questions and learn how to help your child at home. I can get the name of the Hopsice I went to (it is in Fort Worth) if you would like more info on the groups.
I learned about a book through the church we used to go to and it is great for explaining daeth to Young Children. Here's the name of it: Water Bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney. It is a small book, however it isn't a board book. It might be a little long for a 2 year old. I think a 4-5 year old it would be better for them to understand and keep their attention. Might be good to get it for the future and any deaths in the family later on. We are foster parents and we've had foster kids in our home and I read the book a couple of times to the kids. I also shared it with my Mom who shared it with her Great-Granddaughter (she lost her Mom, due to overdose of drugs/alcohol/depression). I think books would be the best way for a child to deal with that. Kids love to draw and paint, that would be healthy for her to do as well. You could find books that explain older people and that they get sick and need more help,etc... I liked the suggestion of going to nursing homes, that would give you more of a chance to talk about health issues, the elderly, death,etc... Start preparing her with his condition- cancer. It is hard explaining cancer to a child. Have you contacted the American Cancer Society and asked them if they have any suggestions about telling children about cancer? If you haven't, try that and see what they have to say. The library would be another resource for finding books about the elderly and their health/cancer and death. If you belong to a church, churches also have libraries, so you can check with your church as well. You might find comfort in reaching out to your Minister, maybe Children's Minister if your church has a children's minister. They have a lot of training and deal a lot with families, hospitals and dealing with grief. Another resource is calling Cook's Children's Hospital or Harris Methodist Hospital and talking with the Chaplains there. Cook's might actually have a library for kids with serious medical issues and be able to assist you the best. You might want to go to Cook's and talk with a Chaplain there. Have you searched online for any type of cancer support groups, there may be some support groups for family members who are dealing with cancer? I know when I lost my dog last year, I went online and found a support group for people who had lost a pet. I found it comforting, as I had a hard time sleeping the first few nights. There might be a support group online that helps kids to deal with death.
The Warm Place I've heard deals with children who has lost their Mom or Dad or a Guardian/Grandparent. They provide a place for them to play, color, paint and work out their grief. Children's work is their play, so you can tell a lot by the way a child plays, what their feelings are,etc... You might try calling them or checking their website out and see if they can help you or give you some literature.
I hope this helps you and I'll keep you and your family, in my prayers. God Bless
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L.S. answers from Dallas on September 14, 2008
SOrry to hear of the impending loss of your friend and loved one. I honestly doubt that your daughter will understand. Children that age don't have a clear understanding of the abstract like death. I would just tell her he went to live with God and his family in heaven and leave it at that. IF she gets older and asks or sees pictures or continues to be with his family, then I would gently begin by expounding on that truth appropriate for her age and understanding.
God Bless you and your family,
S.M. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Hello K.. I am so sorry this is happening to you and your family. My father died 1 and 1/2 years ago and I, still, once a week have to take an hour and cry. My 7 year old son does the same once a month. He also had a 7 year old dog (his BFF)die a month later. My mother bought an incredible children's book that I reccomend for all ages. It is called "What is Heaven Like?" by Beverly Lewis. He will bring it to me occasionally and that is when I know he needs a cry.It is about a little boy and his sister that loses a grandpa and all the questions that come up. Then, shows how it affects their everyday life. You can, of course, change the name of grandpa to what is needed. My son understands more than I ever did at his age and still says hello and I love you to Poppa and Bailey, the dog, everytime he prays. I will keep you and your family in my prayers for the next few months!!!
T.G. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
I really feel the best thing to do is treat her like she knows what you're talking about. You might not feel like she doesn't understand. Telling her one thing - that the cat died, then telling her another - that it moved on to be with its family, I don't feel is the best or smartest thing to do, because then you're confusing her, and then setting her up for "failure" (with understanding death).
She's young, you don't have to go into everything, just that so and so died, or a pet or plant, whatever the circumstance calls for.
Kids are so much smarter and capable than we ever give them credit for. (I know some people think I'm crazy.)
I think, personally, you should let her know what's going on, that he's really sick, and that she should spend what time HE has left [bonding] with him, and explain its because he's not going to be here much longer.
M.M. answers from Abilene on September 14, 2008
We have lost many people in our family, both Grandpa's and two of my husbands siblings. None of these people were a daily figure in our lives, so that made it slightly easier to explain to our kids, but yes they are in Heaven where they are happy and no sick or hurt has really worked for our boys. They take it very matter of factly. So don't be hurt if your daughter starts telling people "my "uncle" just went to heaven, we'll miss him but he's happy" in the same way she would tell someone she just got a new toy.
My oldest (6 this week) has begun over the last week in his prayers asking The Father to " tell grandpa G and grandpa M and aunt and uncle hellow for me" it is a bitter sweet thing, but I am glad he does it, I think it gives him peace to still be able to "talk" to them.
Good luck thru this hard time, and just listen, to your friend, to the wife, to your husband, and your daughter, just love and listen it's all we can do at times like this.
S.S. answers from Wichita Falls on September 13, 2008
I've never tried to explain death to my little ones - my 5 year old has formed a pretty good grasp based on our 'after' talks. How everyone will die eventually - they go to sleep and wait for Jesus to come. They don't hurt any more, and they're not sick - fortunately most of the people my son has lost have been much older - so when it came time to talk about when he would die and when his daddy and I would die, we settled on "around 100 or so"... after we were all adults. I know that he will probably lose a friend before he's 20, but it settles his mind right now.
N.C. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
when my grandma died last year we had to explain that to my cousins, close to the age of your child that she was gone. the best way to do that was at the viewing we let them see grandma (looking beautiful than ever, she died after about 12 or so years of alheimers) and explained that life also involves death. they had questions about why grandma was laying there and we explained as best as we could. my family is very real about things and i honestly think that it was better for them to see her like that to fully understand. i know it sounds morbid but with life there is death and thats what we told my cousins. we also said that usually when there is a death someone is born....we had three births including my son in one week about a month before grandma died. before she passed she had two more great grandsons and a great granddaughter with another great granddaughter on the way. we made light on a sad sitution but we also told them that it was ok to be sad and cry but to remember (if religious) that God loves us and that when someone dies he is ready for them to enter Heaven and live forever. good luck.
R.F. answers from Dallas on September 12, 2008
Try Amazon.com - they have a lot of books on children and grieving. I'm not sure if they start as young as three, but it would be a good resource to start with.
I hope you treasure this time with your friend. I'm sorry to hear of his illness.
J.O. answers from Dallas on September 12, 2008
My son is 3.5 and lost a friend recently. The advice we were given by a friend (she's a child psychologist) is to keep it simple. Don't go into any real detail, it's just confusing to them. Let her guide the discussion and just answer her questions. Tell her it's okay to be sad and that it's also okay to remember him and be happy.
Stay away from saying that he went to sleep once he's gone. This could scare her into thinking that any time someone goes to sleep, they leave for good. Also, don't say he's sick. Use the word cancer if you have to label it. Saying he's sick could backfire and cause her to fear illness of any kind.
Let her see your sadness. It's okay to cry and for her to see that. She needs to know that it's okay and that we all feel sadness when we lose someone we care about.
Be prepared for her to be extra clingy during all of this. Even if she doesn't fully understand, she will most definitely feel all the emotion surrounding the situation. You'll probably have to reassure her that she/you/your husband aren't leaving as well.
I also think that if she could see him (if it's not something you think would scare her) during the time he has left, it might help guide her talks with you about it.
To be honest, my son doesn't really understand what's happened. He knows that his friend is no longer around but he doesn't fully get it. He'll mention going over to play with a specific toy his friend had or how "he'll be right back in jus' a minute" when I say that his friend isn't here. That sort of thing. We do look at pictures and talk about the things they did together. I usually end up crying and we talk about the loss and sadness.
I'm so sorry you are having to deal with this. Please know that you are all in my thoughts.
E.L. answers from Dallas on September 12, 2008
Here is a good link, there is also a bunch of information if you Google "helping children grieve"
Your family and your friends family will be in our prayers!
D.S. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Hello K.: I'm so sorry you all have to go through this. My Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in June '07, so we told my then 2.5 yo daughter that Granny's body was sick, so she understood why we had to keep flying to Ohio to visit and spend time with Granny. In January this year my Mom 'suddenly' passed away (all death is sudden, but she WAS on the road to wellness). So, we told my daughter that Granny's body stopped working, that she is in heaven with Jesus, and we will definitely see her again in heaven. My daughter attended the funeral, and gently kisses and held hands with my Mom. My daughter does still talk about my Mom, and I have numerous things around the house that my Mom got her, so I remind my daughter about those special items and how we have to treat them gently. Hopefully this helps you and yours. God bless...
K.S. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Chances are that the godfather and his family have been referred to a hospice for support in the dying process. No one likes to think of death when you're dealing with a disease like cancer, but the popularity of the hospice movement in the US in the last several decades has been growing.
My father died of cancer 13 years ago and one of his sorrows was how few people especially some who were the closest to him who would talk to him about "the elephant in the room". He knew he was dying from the moment of the diagnosis. He found for extra time, but eventually, he decided that enough was enough and discontinued treatment so that his last days would not be filled with the effects of continued chemo.
My dad went into hospice care and died three weeks later. My sister-in-law's father went into hospice and lasted almost two years.
My point is that hospice workers are compassionate people who are trained to help the patient and the family make the most of their last days on earth together. Ask them for help in dealing with the youngsters and their questions and yours.
C.M. answers from Abilene on September 13, 2008
We have lost a few family members, and the best way I have found is to tell them that their loved one is in Heaven, with God.
K.J. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
First I am so sorry for you. I have heard that what ever you do don't tell the child they just went to sleep or there "sleeping" because this could cause extreme fear in young children about going to sleep. & also in terminal cases I heard from psyhologists it's best to wait until after the person has passed, so the child is not anxiously waiting some terrible event. Good luck with your situation. Again I'm sorry for your family & his!
P.S. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
I used those exact words when we lost my MIL when my little one was 3. Grandma "moved to Heaven" Then we explained where Heaven is, a place far far away where you can only go when Jesus invites you. It is too far to go in a car, too far to go on a plane, train or boat. We need to wait until Jesus gives us our invitation and then we can go to Heaven with him and see Grandma again. I did go into the cool thing about Heaven is though we cant see them, they can see us. And anytime you miss your Grandma, just think about her and she will come and check on you.
C.H. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
awww death sucks!
Always be totally honest. Not in a scary way though. Maybe you could explain how the body is born and then dies just like a flower or cat. And (maybe) he will be waiting for you in heaven when its your time. Which will be a long time from now after you complete your life successfully.
Dont make it seem so horrible....seem like just a part of life matter of fact just like a baby being being born.
D.B. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
I'm assuming that since she has a godfather, you are religious people. We went to visit my grandfather last Thanksgiving and were worried that with all his family there visiting and being out of the nursing home to be with them, he might finally let himself die, so we had to prepare our barely 3 year old son for that. We explained to him that sometimes people are so sick that they won't be able to stay with us for very much longer and that when it's time for them to leave, they go to live with Heavenly Father(God) up in heaven and that when they go there, they don't have the pain that their sick bodies had. We also believe in an after life and explained to him that when we die we will be able to see them again. I found it helped to prepare him for it. My grandfather didn't die while we were there, but he did die this last July and we explained to him then about it again (it had been a semi-regular topic of discussion whenever he brought it up) and he understands that it's okay for people to leave and go to heaven. I also explained to him that it's okay to miss people when they die and to cry (because goodness knows I did my fair share) because we won't see them for a while, but at the same time, they are in a safe place where they can't be hurt anymore by being sick. The important thing I noticed is to keep it simple and keep it as positive as possible. She will probably ask a lot of questions as time goes on, but it's amazing what some of these little kids can understand. It's a tough thing to do. You have my simpathy and condolences.
B.M. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Does she attend a Sunday School or church?? About Jesus ? I know she is young, but is she has heard of him or colored pictures of him, she might understand more than you think. When my mother in law died, my 4 year old understood that Nannie went to live with Jesus. Kids are pretty smart. I will keep you in my prayers during this time.
T.L. answers from Dallas on September 14, 2008
Let me first say, I am so sorry to hear your news.
In a 7 month time frame, my grandmother and both my husband's grandmothers passed away. Our daughter was only two and a half when my grandmother died followed by the other two over the next few months all while I was pregnant with our second.
We had been reading a set of books about four little angels that live in heaven and do nice things and help with things on Earth. I used those to explain Mema went to live in heaven to help & take care of the little angels. We reminded our daughter how much she was loved and that Mema, then Oma & Granny would always love her and be there for her because they were watching her from heaven just like the little angels. We explain a few other things about heaven to help her understand.
She's three and a half now and somewhat understands. At least as much as she needs to at this point.
J.L. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
You could just say that her Godfather is very sick and he needs to go live with God and His angels. I just had our dog put down and I have 4 young kids. We are Christian so we know about Heaven and sometimes God needs them in Heaven and they will wait for us there. My dad is also in a battle with terminal cancer and my kids understand that sometimes God needs them back.
B.T. answers from Wichita Falls on September 13, 2008
My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family. A close friend of mine died unexpectedly a couple of months ago and I know that it can be very difficult. You have already received a whole lot of great advice so far, but I would just like to add some thoughts and hope that they may bring you comfort. If you are religious and attend church, I would explain to your daughter your beliefs in simple terms. Children are so sweet and innocent, but they understand as long as we don't overcomplicate things. You will most likely find that you have the harder time with this than your daughter. I honestly believe with all of my heart in the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death is not the end, but merely a step we all must take. It's alright to cry and to mourn and I can tell by reading all of these posts that there are many you are mourning with you. I pray that you may find peace and comfort at this difficult time. As I have dealt with the loss of our friend, I have found comfort in my Savior. Even with my strong beliefs in Jesus Christ, it has been difficult. Sometimes it feels like a really bad dream that I just can't seem to wake up from. But as I have prayed to my Father in Heaven, I have felt His Spirit in my heart and I know that all will be ok. I apologize that this is so personal. Know that my prayers are with you. May God bless you!
K.L. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Well, I would start with finding a book that deals with death at the local library. I go to the McKinney Library and they are soooooo helpful in finding just the right books. I too will have to try to explain this to my daughter, in that her grandfather is not doing well. Good Luck! Kat
Also, I would tell her that they go up to heaven, where God takes good care of them. Your daughter still won't probably get it, but this may satisfy her curiousity for now. I am dealing with is there a real Santa Claus now, hmmmmm. I say yes, but kids are going to hear all sorts of things at school.
G.A. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Let God help you with this. My father passed away 20 yrs ago. My children were about 7 and 8 but what happened was they were close at that time with a family with three children around that age. They spent a lot of time going back and forth to play. Their Aunt died about the same time. My ex gave my son a ugly Iguana with a tank. It got out and went behind my dishwasher and we did not see it for awhile. Later I went through the kitchen and almost stepped on it. My son was so happy to have it back but within a week it died and a frog he had. Well the 5 children had their own a funeral since the other three had been to their Aunt's funeral. They got a shoe box and buried it in the yard. It was sort of a closer for them all. They said a prayer over it and after that they were all happy again. I really believe God helped them to heal this way. So set a balloon off into the sky or bury a box or something to make it more final. He will give you the wisdom and works when you need them just ask. God Bless G. W
M.R. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
You have received a lot of great advice and support. I am truly sorry to hear your sad news. Another good children's book: "Where Do Balloons Go?" by Jamie Lee Curtis.
J.C. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Please dont tell her that he went to sleep. I have know several children who were afraid to go to sleep because they would never wake up. I am not sure if you are a christian family or not. We had several losses last year(my kids were 2 & 3 yrs old). We told the kids that they went to heaven and that we wouldnt see them until we got there. That satisified the 2 yr old.
E.C. answers from Dallas on September 14, 2008
I am so sorry to hear about her godfather.
Please take this advice in the nature it is intended - I am NOT trying to make light of a sad situation.
First, she is so young, you may not have to even worry about it. That is a sad lesson to learn at such a young age.
Second, get a gold fish or hermit crabs. They always died around out house. Then, after they die, have a little service for them like at a real funeral.
Third, this one is risky! Start going to volunteer at an "old folks home". One of them is bound to pass on. I know, it sounds horrible. I had the intentions of doing that with my kids, and we even went to a couple of homes. BUT instead of being able to get close to anybody, there was an old woman who scard the bejeebers out of my daughter! To this day, she is scared of old women. (She is 11 now!) Find a GOOD home to visit. They will let you go room to room and talk with the patrons. The key to to go to the funeral when they pass on. Let her see them during the viewing. Then, it won't be such a shock when she sees somebody that she loves.
OR... I wish I would have thought about this when my kids were little.
Everybody puts such a sad, sad spin on death. WHY?! Tell her how great the place is that the person went to (whatever you believe it to be). Then, go to the funeral, out of respect for the family, but don't go look at him. Use this as a time of celebration and happiness and start her out on the right foot!
I didn't see my dad in his coffin and I am SO HAPPY I didn't!
Please know I sure did not mean to be crass. I apoligize if you took it that way.
R.L. answers from Dallas on September 16, 2008
Just an FYI...she will only forget if you let her. My mother died when my nephew was 3 yrs old. We all constantly talk about her and remind him what she did for him (he was the only grandchild at the time)and to this day he remembers things, probably because of all the pictures and such that he has seen. So it is up to you as to whether she will remember anything about her godfather. Just cherish the times you have left!
S.P. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
First, I would like to express sympathy to you and your family. It is very difficult to go through this and I understand how you feel. (Step-dad passed away from pancreatic cancer.) It is a gift to know beforehand although it does not seem like it now. This way you can express all your love and say good bye.
Your daughter is very young but I believe you should try to stay with what she DOES understand. I do know know what your religious beliefs are but since this is her Godfather then perhaps..
You can simply explain that her Godfather is going to his true home-the home we all have above where we live now. That his ultimate father-the one who made him and who made her-has called her God father home. Explain that her Godfather is sick and can't get better here but that if he goes there-he will feel better and not be sick anymore. Let her know that he can not come back because he has to stay there to feel better. Again, I know not what your beliefs are-but you can promise that if she chooses to-she can see him again when she too is called to go to her true home to see her maker.
I hope this helps. I recall explaining death on various occassions to my own children when various pets died. We have yet to deal with a close person dying but when we do, I will simply put it in terms they understand and let them deal with it however they need.
Please know that while it is hard on you to try and explain, your daughter will absorb the news better than you think and chances are that she will not remember in later years what you tell her. Now is the time to put together something to help her remember her Godfather so she does not forget this special person in her life. Photos will best preserve her memory of him and you can include the things he has said and done for her and her reactions to them. Of course-this may need to be something you create after he is gone as a way to deal with his absence and you may find that doing so will help you both heal.
Many blessings on you all.
A.J. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
I am so sorry about your friends situation. I hate to say this but more than likely your daughter wont be able to remember the situation for too long. at the age of 2 we are not able to have recall memory of situations for very long after.
I would though tell her that just like a book a life or people have a start and an end and it was the end of his story. but we can remember him always by talking about him when ever we miss him....I like the persons response before mine about the books to get that is a wonderful idea.
Hope that helps, God bless,
L.W. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
I think Maria Shriver has a book talking about how to talk to a child about death. Might check at the local public library. Good luck.
A.G. answers from Dallas on September 12, 2008
In our experience, we explained to our daughter that her great grandfather was very sick while it was happening. We went by our beliefs. He went to heaven. Make it simple and clear. Don't go into a lot of details. Answer her questions, just don't over do it.
C.S. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
HI K., I am so sorry to hear the news. It must be heartbreaking for all and then to have to try and explain it to a child, even harder.
Kids are pretty smart. She will be pickin gup things already from you and family I am sure.
When our pet Sally passed away we told our son she had "passed" and he responded to "Is she in Heaven?" I said yes and he said okay. "She is an angel Mommy" he said and he was fine with that until the next day when he asked "So when is Sally coming home?" Like she was at the vets or groomers or something.
I had to then explain that "Heaven is permanent". She won't ever come back." He was so sad then. It really hit him hard and he misbehaved terribly that night and I finally took him out for a quiet walk and just let him talk and ask questions.
I kept it as simple as his questions. Kids just want to make sure their lives are not going to change, their parents are still going to be there and that it is okay to miss the lost loved one. It's okay to be sad and it's okay to talk about them and be happy about them too.
Hugs to you and your family and to the wife and little boy who are old enough to know what is really happening.
Again so sorry for the news.
With love, C.
A.B. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's godfather and your friend! First of all just take it one day at a time.
About 11 years ago....we had just given birth to our second child. Unfortunately, he only lived 2 days. All of this was very unexpected. We had to be upfront with our 2 year old daughter obviously because her brother would not be coming home. My husband and I bought a small gift and told our daughter that it was from her brother. We then told her that he was needed in heaven and would not be able to stay with us. But, the exciting part was that he would watch over her ALL the time even when she could not see him. She was at the funeral and memorial service. Eventhough I am sure she did not totally understand what was going on, it was enough to get her through.
I hope this will help in some small way. Sometimes not understanding can be a blessing. Your daughter will not know the great pain & sadness with losing her godfather or really understand what he went through.
You are in my prayers.
A.C. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
K., my thoughts are with you. This is a hard time for you and your family. As far as explaining things to your daughter, just tell her what you believe. Personally, I believe that there is a life after death with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, that we will be able to live with them and with our family forever. I have a friend who's son died last year, he was 14 months and their daughter, at the time, was 3 years old. I don't know the exact words that she used, but she told the truth, that her brother was safe with Heavenly Father and Jesus and that she would see him again someday. That was all the explanation she needed. Their daughter, who is now almost 5, talks about her brother still and is actually a comfort to her parents when they are feeling sad about losing their son; she will be the one to remind them where he is and that they will see him again. Kids are so pure and simple and your explanation doesn't need to be anything more than that. She will understand; and be ready to answer questions if she has them - but remember to meet her where she's at: in other words, if she has questions, ask her what SHE thinks the answer is, because many times we will jump to conclusions about what kids mean and try to give a complicated answer, when the question in THEIR mind is really very simple. I hope this helps. Good luck and God bless you and your family.
D.D. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
First let me say that I am sorry for you and your families pain at this difficult time. As for your 3yr old, let things go for now and take some time to guage her perception of what is happening. Children are much more in tune with things than we sometimes give them credit for. If you belong to a church, seek advice from your pastor or his/her advice. Or another option would be to seek out books on how to explain death to children. Remeber that death is a natural process in our lives. Depending on your beliefs, it is also the begining and not the end. Your child will take a cue from you and how you handle the situation.
SAHM of two(18 and 4). Married for 11 years.
D.J. answers from Dallas on September 13, 2008
Hi - I'm a cancer survivor. Two year olds tend to blurt things out so I wouldn't attempt to explain death to her at this point. Perhaps you should explain to her that her godfather is very sick and is taking some strong medicine to make him better. Things may look bleak to you and your family but there is always hope and that's what might be best to convey to her and others that you talk to. As time goes on, it will be obvious that he is very sick. I don't know what your beliefs are. We have dealt with death in my family and I have told my son that the person is in heaven with God and Jesus and he or she is happy and healthy now. They are always with us and watching over us even though we can't see them.
Your family should probably become familiar with hospice care. They have some excellent advice about this and can guide you through the process with hope and dignity for your family.
D.S. answers from Dallas on September 12, 2008
I don't know what to say, but I did once hear really good advice on what NOT to say...never tell her that he "went to sleep and never woke up" or any variation involving him "going to sleep". They say that can terrify kids, make them afraid of the dark, afraid to go to sleep at night, afraid to let you go to sleep, etc. Have you asked your pediatrician? He may have some good advice.