October 18, 2006,
A.L. asks from Cedar Park, TX on October 17, 2006
Talking About Death with a 7 Year Old.
My father past away four months ago from cancer and he was in hospice care the last month. My seven year old travel and stayed with me while taking care of his grandpa during the last months. He asked some questions when this happened and we tried to talk to him as much as we could at the moment about heaven and his grandpa passing away. He was really sad but the company of his causins made it easier on him or so we thought.
Last night he came to us crying saying that he didnt want to die like grandpa and that he was afraid of heaven. I've been talking to him but it is a very sensitive issue for myself as well and I'm having a hard time putting it in words that a little sensitive boy can understand. I always end up distracting him and making him laugh with silly stories and changing the subject.
I want him to understand as much as he can about death without putting too much stress in his young mind. I do not wish him to be afraid and to think about this all the time. Any advice?
1 mom found this helpful
So What Happened?™
Thank you so much for all your good advice and concern. After a long talk with my husband (and reading some of the books you all mentioned) we decided to talk to him about our believes. I talked to him about heaven, death and reincarnation. I know this is a bit unusual but he seemed to have grasped the concept very well. It gave him confort and a new hope to think that he will be with his granpa one day again and that heaven is not a bad place to be at all.
He is not afraid of death anymore and we can talk about my father in a normal loving way withouth him getting upset. I sincerely believe that God put the words in my mouth and opened his little heart to understand all this.
God bless you all for your words of encouragement. Every day is a new day for us and a new oportunity to say how much we love eachother.
L.A. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
"Where do we go after we die?
Death is not the end. Death is really a beginning—another step forward in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children.
Someday, like everyone else, your life on Earth will end and your physical body will die. But your spirit will not die. At the time of physical death, your spirit will go to the spirit world, where you will continue to learn and progress.
Death is a necessary step in your progression, just as your birth was. Sometime after your death, your spirit and your body will be reunited—never to be separated again. This is called resurrection, and it was made possible by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ."
My father passed away a couple of years ago and so I feel your pain, I did not however have to explain it to a child. Hopefully this will help!
This site puts it very simply and gracefully---
1 mom found this helpful
S.T. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
Someone sent me this today. I don't know if you have a dog or not...but maybe you could use some of this e-mail to help him understand.
A sick man turned to his doctor
as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said,
"Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side."
Very quietly, the doctor said, "I don't know."
"You don't know?
You, a Christian man, do not know what is on the other side?"
The doctor was holding the handle of the door;
on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining,
and as he opened the door,
a dog sprang into the room
and leaped on him with an eager show of gladness.
Turning to the patient, the doctor said,
"Did you notice my dog?
He's never been in this room before.
He didn't know what was inside.
He knew nothing except that his master was here,
and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear.
I know little of what is on the other side of death,
but I do know one thing...
I know my Master is there and that is enough."
S.B. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
A. - I am so sorry for your loss. It must be extremely hard to discuss this with your son with it still so fresh in your mind. I would take a guess that maybe he is more afraid of the cancer than the death. Maybe he thinks everyone dies like that. You might talk to him about those as being two separate things and see if that alleviates some of his fear.
But I think maybe the best thing to do is have your pastor talk to him. Or priest, or whatever. They should be able to explain God and dying and heaven in ways that a seven year old can understand. The concept of being dead is really hard for any child to get. If you are raising him in a God-believing home (which as you mentioned heaven, I will assume you are), then explaining the concept of death as it relates to God should take away the deep fear of dying, as you don't really die, just your body does. Your spirit lives on in Heaven.
We can't possibly explain death even to ourselves, so it's natural to see where a child might not understand it. Go to a leader of your church - they will be able to help.
Good luck, and accept my condolences - your family will be in my prayers - S.
H.M. answers from Dallas on October 18, 2006
My mother passed away a little over a year ago (from leukemia) and my son was 5, almost 6. At the time, he seemed to react the same way your son did...as though he had not a care in the world. But, also like your son, it hit him a few months later and he came to us several times claiming he was scared to die and go to heaven. Like others here have mentioned, we really played up the whole "heaven is a good/fun/happy place, everyone is your friend, there is no pain" thing.
My recommendation is that you try to stop changing the subject and distracting him. I'm sure it's difficult for you to discuss your father with him with it still being so fresh, but I can't help but think it would make things better. Instead of trying to make him laugh with a funny story, try to think of a fun story about your dad and son together. My son LOVES to hear stories about him and my mom...things that they used to do together, games they used to play, places they went together...that type of thing. Focus on the happy memories of them together. That's my 2 cents anyway.
A.G. answers from Dallas on October 18, 2006
I am so very sorry for your loss. We lost my dad to cancer and my husband's step dad to cancer both within the last year. My girls are really too young to ask questions, (2 & 1 when the 2nd one passed) but I know a book that helped me a lot was Heaven by Randy Alcorn (Not sure about spelling of his last name.) He spent over 20 years researching what the Bible has to say about Heaven. It is broken up into little questions with short paragraph answers-- will remember life on Earth in Heaven? That sort of thing. It is a very encouraging book, I hope it will bring some peace to you, and help you answer questions for your son, as well. I also went to a Grief Share Group at my church and that really helped me a lot, too. HEre is their website:
The website can help you find the book I mentioned (or most any book store-- christian or otherwise should too) but they will also have tons of other resources available, as well as just provide you with information and can tell you where groups are currently meeting if you are interested. I go to Stonebriar Community Church and I know they currently have a group in session-- you can join anytime-- and you can just go and check it out before committing.
C.K. answers from Dallas on October 18, 2006
This, like the sex talk, is definitely not something to do without proper guidance from a child communicator. I would get advice from the children's minister at your church. If you do not belong to one, feel free to contact Brad Schwall at ____@____.com, who is a professional counselor at Park Cities Baptist Church and director of Homeworks. His website is www.parentingtools.org. Or, you can contact my church's children's minister, Laurie Taylor, at ____@____.com has a tremendous amount of experience in this area.
L.M. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
Are you familiar with James Dobson and Focus on the Family? That would be an excellent resource for you. If you don't know, he's the nation's leading family psychologist and is wonderful...his website www.focusonthefamily.com is a great resource. Go to and do a search on "death" or "understanding death". I'm praying that God will give you wisdom in dealing tenderly with your son's inevitable questions.
J.P. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
First off, let me say I am sorry for your loss and I hope the pain for you and your family is not long. I have a seven year old and last year was probably the first time we had to talk about death with her. I am assuming that you believe in God since you discussed heaven. I tried to make it as positive as possible without discrediting her feelings. She too was scared but I reminded her that going to heaven is just living on with Jesus and that was our reward for living the way we are supposed to here on earth. Also, that is ok to feel sad because we will miss the person who has died but that someday we will see them again. It is such a huge thing to grasp but for someone so little but if you keep trying to have a positive thing then I think in time he will start to feel better. Take Care, J.
D.W. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
I am so very dorry for your loss. I am sure this is a very hard time for you.
SInce words are not coming eailsy for you maybe some books would help... Here is a list that you mighty find useful: http://www.barrharris.org/barbooks.html
Also remind your little boy that Heaven is a happy place- we are sad b/c we don't have that person here w/ us, but God has promised us no more pain or suffering or tears in heaven. You can talk about the things Grandpa may be doing in heaven- because he is happy there.
Acknowledge your sons feelings- that it is ok to be sad/scared whatever..... it is even ok to laugh at funny memories!
Let him know what you are feeling too!
Again, my prayers are with you as you journey through this difficult time.
Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
A.D. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
A couple of books:
Helping Children Grieve When Someone They Love Dies by Theresa Huntley
Someone I Love Died by Christine Harder Tangvald
Or an online article from focus on the family:
How to Help Your Child Grieve
Grandpa Joe has terminal cancer. Great-aunt Susie is in the nursing home hospital ward. Your child’s classmate just died in a car accident. Terrorist attacks and reports of wars fill the evening news …
Death is an ever-present fact of life, yet even adults face it only with difficulty. Here are some tips to help your children through the grieving process.
Teach that death is part of life. Parents often avoid talking about death in an effort to protect children from unpleasantness. Instead, look for teachable moments. Wilting flowers, changing seasons or the death of a family pet provides an opportunity to show death as a part of life. Visit elderly friends or relatives to show children that aging is normal. Children will accept and confront death if adults allow it.
Be honest. Present the information in a straightforward manner with age-appropriate information by explaining, “Granddad died last night.” Avoid saying, “He went to sleep” or “He’s gone away.” These terms leave children wondering if they will die when they go to sleep or if the person is coming back.
Don’t delay telling about a death. Delaying can do more harm than good. If you wait, someone else may tell your child or he will overhear it in conversation. Learning the news from you is less frightening.
Answer questions. Some children are satisfied with the facts. Others will ask a multitude of questions. Allow questions and answer them, even admitting when you don’t have the answer.
Recognize fears. Death can be a scary concept for children. If your child expresses fear about seeing the body or going to the funeral, don’t force the issue. Comfort and reassure your child following a death of somebody he knows.
Let them see you grieve. Children need to know that grieving is acceptable. Allow children to see you cry. Emotional pain is part of losing a loved one.
Cherish the memories. Continue to talk about the loved one who died. Look through photo albums, talk about funny things the deceased said or reminisce about pleasant experiences.
Children take their cues from us and model their reactions accordingly. Show them that death and grief are parts of life.
S.W. answers from Dallas on October 17, 2006
Seems like you have some other real good books to look at but I found one called "Waterbugs and Dragonflys: Explaining Death to Young Children" by Doris Stickney. It is only $6.50 at http://www.amazon.com/Waterbugs-Dragonflies-Explaining-De....
Sorry for your loss.