June 26, 2008,
J.S. asks from Slatington, PA on December 26, 2006
Seeking Advice on How to Tell Small Children of a Grandparents Passing
I am looking for some advice on how to tell my 3 & 4 yr old girls that my mother (their grandmother) passed away.. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in August at only 47 and passed away last night.. She had been staying with us and the girls asked today where is grandma cause she was there when they went to bed.. I don't want to lie to them or not tell them.. I just really am having a hard time trying to figure out what to tell them.. Any avice on what to tell them would be greatly appreciated as that me & my husband still haven't figured out what to tell them..
So What Happened?™
Well we explained to the girls that Grandma went to be with the Angels.. My 4yr od made us cry when she said that how are we gonna get there to pick her up.. Then we explained to her that she couldn't see or touch her anymore and she started crying that she wanted to still see Grandma.. My 3yr old really didn't have any questions that night, but the next day she did.. Surprisingly my 4yr old help explain to her.. They understand now cause they will say Grandma is with the fairies (we tell them angels) and that she wateches them and is happy.. It was the hardest thing I think of the whole part was watching them try to understand.. We have decided that going to the memorial & burial would be just to much for them.. I just wanted to thank everyone for the wonderful advice that was given and also for the condolences..
K.E. answers from Reading on December 28, 2006
I'm very sorry for your loss. My mother-in-law died this morning of lung cancer and I had to tell my 4.5 yr old daughter. We had a cat that was hit by a car last year, so we had been visiting the subject for a while.
I had contacted a grief counselor at Olivias House, where they specialize in Children's losses. They said children don't understand abstracts such as "She is in heaven" or "She is with God". The best approach is short honest answers. First, define death - no more sleeping, no more eating, no more seeing, hearing, talking, etc. Then explain that they won't see grandmother anymore but they can think of her anytime, and if appropriate in your opinion, remember her with flowers at the gravesite, etc. DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, allow anyone to tell the children that she is sleeping or has "gone to her eternal resting place". This can cause fear of going to bed. Also, it is helpful to be very specific that she died from cancer, NOT that she was sick. Otherwise, they may fear that they will die or that you or someone else may die from something like a cold or the flu. If they ask questions, give them short, specific, age appropriate responses. Children are usually asking a very specific question so really listen to them.
I hope that helps. It's already a tough time and explaining things to them isn't easy. Let them see you grieve and tell them that people will be sad about this. One thing to keep in mind that I've experienced already this morning, they will say things that sound odd, cold, and out of place since this is their first experience with death. Also, they may not immediately be sad or may be sad very breifly and move on. Be patient as possible.
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M.R. answers from Washington DC on December 28, 2006
My heart goes out to you. I faced a similar thing a couple of years ago with my mom and my then 5 year old daughter. I am sure that your daughters knew that she was sick? When my mom passed away, we had a long drive from MD to Texas to prepare my daughter for what she might face when we got there. We talked about angels and heaven and she decided that since her grandmomma made the "bestest" peanut butter sandwiches anywhere, that God needed her to come and help him make those sandwiches for him. At the funeral the minister even mentioned how J. had reasoned that out. All the way back to MD, she asked what Grandmomma might be doing now. We decided that she was picking out a robe, she was getting a cup of coffee, she was finding her friends and family, and getting a comfortable rocking chair so that she could rock the babies that needed her touch. By making things more realistic, it was easier for her to understand. We also told her that Grandmomma would always live in her heart and she would always be able to hear her telling her that she loved her. J. talks about the times she spent with my mother and hasn't ever been scared about why she isn't at the house when we go to see my dad.
I hope this helps. Again, you have my deepest sympathy.
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G.O. answers from Scranton on December 31, 2006
I am sorry that your mother passed on and it is the worst feeling to have. I can empasize with you because my father died of the same horrible disease in 1992. The worst part is that he died at my house and not only did i find him . I had my two children (at that time they were 5 and 3) were with me.
At first I told them that he was sleeping but when it was getting closer to the funeral I explained that God wanted to take him to heaven with him so that he can make him better there. Then when they asked why would God do that I told them that they seen how much their "pap" was fighting to breathe and how hard it was for him get around so God wanted to make him better but he couldn't do that here on earth. I don't know if it really explained much to them but they started to understand that it was better for him to pass on than stay with them to suffer.
K.B. answers from Lancaster on June 24, 2007
I am sorry for your loss. My mother in law passed away 4 years ago from cancer also. Our daughetr was 3 at the time. We told her that grandma was in heaven now and she was not sick anymore. We explained how her body did not work anymore but all the love and who she was inside when to be with god and all the people that she loved in heaven. Our daughter was very into acting out the funeral which was very hard on my husband but very helpful for her. We told her that grandma loved her very much and that we loved her and that grandma was always with her in her heart. I hope that this helps a little bit it is a very hard time in yor families life. Just love each other and trust in god that your mom is happy and well. She will always be with you.
R.C. answers from Philadelphia on December 28, 2006
I just lost my grandmother who my 4 year old daughter was very close to. We got a necklace off of QVC it is a heart with a bell in it and gave it to her from my grandmother with a card that said she loved her and would laways watch over her when she wore the necklace and heard the bell it was her heart ringing with love for her. We told her she was in heaven with my grandfather who she knows of and our dog. She was very sad lots of tears and problems with bedtime but now it has been a month and things are getting better. She talks about her and we also gave her a picture of the two of them together for her room and she has some of my grandmothers things. You might even want to give them a specail shirt or sweater and tell them to put it on and grandmom will be giving them hugs did that too. I'm very sorry for your loss it is hard but your children will help get you through it is amazing. Let me know if you need any other ideas. One more thing I didn't take her to the viewing or funeral we all thought it would be too much.
H. answers from Pittsburgh on December 28, 2006
My mom died of breast cancer last year. My son was too little to totally understand (he was 1 1/2), but my nieces who were 2 1/2 and 4 (almost 5) understood a little more. We tried to keep our explanations simple and on a level they could all understand. With my nieces, they knew mom had been sick for awhile. My sister told them that my mom went to heaven to be with Jesus and she wasn't sick any more. They eventually asked the can I go visit questions and we told them that heaven is really far away but they will get to see her again some day and it's okay to be sad and miss grandma. My son knows grandma is with Jesus and will point up at the sky. He also sends the balloons we get in restaurants up in the sky so grandma can play with them.
Hang in there. I am sorry to hear about your mom. My mom was only 53 and had been living with cancer for 19 years when she passed.
G.B. answers from Pittsburgh on March 26, 2008
I am so sorry about your mother. My suggestion to you is to ALWAYS be honest with them!! Remind them of the good times and depending on your religion....explain to them the best of your beliefs!! I have always explained briefly to my son anything that has gone on in life and he was happy with just that!! They trust you and dont want to hear answers from anyone else!! Hope this somewhat helps and good luck!! Once again sorry for your loss and take care!!
M.A. answers from Allentown on December 28, 2006
Jaime, I am very sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my prayers. There is a book called What is Heaven? written by Maria Shriver. We bought it last year at this time when we lost my grandmother. We told our daughter that GG went to heaven and would look over us in all we do and we read the book to her.