Explaining a Soul or Spirit Going to Heaven but Not the Body to a 4 Year Old.

Updated on April 24, 2012
B.C. asks from Arlington, TX
16 answers

Today we went to my husband's grandma's wake. My DD didn't know her well but just visited for a weekend in Jan. Anyway, at the wake, my daughter's cousin who lives in the same town as the great grandma was there and completely broke down and was bawling crying the whole time (3 hours!). My daughter just didn't understand how Grandma could be in heaven when her body was right there. I tried to explain to her that our soul goes to heaven but our body stays here but she didn't get it and I couldn't think of a kid-friendly way to explain it to her. She wasn't too upset or anything. I think she just doesn't understand which is fine, but I was just wondering that since the funeral is tomorrow (she's being creamated so no burial), you ladies might have a good way to help her understand what's happening. She's very bright and 4 1/2 if that matters.

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So What Happened?

I love love the glove idea!!! I can't leave her at home. We are 5 hours away from home. I think that the glove idea will be be so good for the young great-grandkids who are 4, 4, 5, and 7.

Thanks guys! She did well. She didn't ask my anthing today and did well at the funeral. she was a little shifty and a tad noisy, but until we get home, I don't think I'll mention anything. She walked past the casket and simply told her great grandma "bye" real sweet-like. :)

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answers from Nashville on

Use the example of a seed that produced fruit (an outward substance we can enjoy - like an apple) but over time that fruit can get old, spoiled or eaten and is no good anymore, however, the seed inside is the real thing and it goes back to the earth and produces a new fruit/tree and life.

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answers from Chicago on

I just had a similar conversation with my 5 y/o son. I told him that when people die they become angels and live in heaven and watch over us and that the body is left behind to be put to rest because angels are spirits and do not need a body to exist. He got it!

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answers from Houston on

We use a glove in our Sunday School lessons for kids this age. The glove is the body. The hand is the spirit. When the hand enters the glove, it becomes full of life. When the hand is removed from the glove, the hand (spirit) moves on to heaven, while the glove (body) stays on earth.

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answers from San Francisco on

When I was young, it was explained to me that the soul was like a little light that lives inside you, and when you die, the light flies as fast as a sunbeam to heaven. It helped that there was a song we sang called "This little light of mine" so I was better able to visualize it.

I used to think the light was like a battery that never died. It's just when the toy wore out, God had to take the battery out and put it in a new toy. (My ideas didn't jive with the church and I got scolded a lot. Subsequently I haven't been to church since I was about 15. That way I can read the books and make up my own mind without being mocked or scolded.)

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answers from Chicago on

I don't know exactly what you believe, but the glove idea is great! It's also good to explain not that you "have" a soul but you "are" a soul.

Many people think that a soul is something you have. It's not. You HAVE a body. You ARE a soul. The soul is YOU.

It's confusing because Hollywood sometimes shows that people barter their soul or that they can have their soul stolen. The soul IS you. When you die, you go to heaven (or whatever you believe) leaving your body behind. That part that is YOU goes to be with God (or whatever you believe).

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answers from Albuquerque on

I am very sorry for your loss.

A few years ago I took a religious theories class and was able to study some aboriginal tribes who had some creative explanations for bodies and souls that you may be able to use for your kiddo.

According to these tribal people, bodies were like "homes" for our souls. Our souls lived inside of our bodies until they needed new homes in another world. They explained that souls could come and go from bodies (just as people did from home to home) through the use of dreams. When you dream about someone, it is their soul visitng your soul in you body or "home" and this is why we can dream about people who may no longer be in this world.

My memory is a bit blurred and I don't want to misinterpret the tribal beliefs but I think I got the jist of it here.

I hope this helps!

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answers from Houston on

Well a good and cute way is to do it with an egg. You just hold out the egg and ask 'So, what's this?' They say an egg, then crack it open and talk about the parts, there is a shell, the slimy part called the white and the yolk. They you just ask 'so are all of these parts an egg?' They say 'yes'. Then you could take the egg shell and like put it under a napkin or something and ask 'even though these parts are seperated, are they all still and egg?' They say 'yes' and there will probably be some giggles and fun along the way. (If you want it to be less messy, use a hard boiled egg) Then you just bring it home that like egg has three parts that make up the egg we are made of a spirit, that little part inside of us that we can't see but it is the unique thing that makes us, us; a soul-our emotions like being happy or sad, and our body. But all three parts are always us, even if they get separated for a little while. Then you can just field questions and it can lead to awesome discussions. You can also use this to explain the Trinity as well. Have fun!

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answers from Redding on

When I was a child, I experienced many, many losses. Way more than a child should have to endure.
My parents told me about the body giving out and the spirit living on, etc.

I don't know....
To this day I feel like we are so much more than brains and organisms.
I happen to be a prolific dreamer and have been since I was a child.
When you are asleep, your body is still. When they put you out for surgery, your body is is numbed and out. However, your mind still travels and dreams and I just don't believe that it all goes away when we pass.
I truly believe our spirits our still here even if our bodies aren't. I hope there is a heaven. I don't really know. I haven't visited there, myself. But, I just don't see how this energy and thoughts and the minds that we have can be extinquished once our bodies give out. Our spirits go on.

This is just my personal belief, again formed at a very early age. I have many loved ones who've passed who still visit me in my dreams or I find little signs from them along the way.

It is so sad to miss the physical closeness of someone that we love. That's the hardest part. It's a hard concept for children to understand. But, truly, our loved ones never leave us and they live on in our hearts and memories. They travel around as angels looking after us.

I think the wake was enough. I would let your daughter sit out the rest and let her try to understand things in simple, positive, kid terms as difficult as that may sound.
The people we love never truly leave us.
They live on in our memories and our thoughts.

Just my opinion.

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answers from Chicago on

you have to understand it first & this helps me

you are a soul, you have a body

your soul is forever & you just use your body while you are here, when it gets sick or old you leave it behind & get to go to heaven with all the other souls

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answers from Seattle on

When my son was about 2 and a half we had our first big death. When I asked him if he knew what a spirt was he just looked at me funny (like asking a kid what color a firetruck is when they're trying to decide if you're stupid or think they don't know), then shrugged and said,

"Of course. It's like fireworks."

His definition beat mine, so that's what we've gone with ever since.


answers from Dallas on

When my kids ask tough questions, I answer with another question.

"What do YOU think?"

That gives me a better understanding of what they already know. Usually, they will put it into terms that they understand, and then I can elaborate on their terms.



answers from San Francisco on

Ask your pastor or youth pastor to talk with your child. There should not be ANY complicated explanation about this subject for a young child. Since she attended the wake, I see not reason for her to attend another service. Let her stay home.


answers from Redding on

Well, your faith in the hereafter is what is important. Just explain to her the way you feel about it.
She's 4, if she doesnt ask questions it's not time to really have to try to explain any of it really.
I never had a problem sharing what our soul is with my kids. I taught them to listen to their inner voice and their heart at a pretty young age.
I think most Chistians sort of know how to start to explain it to kids. 4 is young, still really young to grasp the whole concept. Just saying "we have a soul inside of us that is invisible, it leaves our body when our body quits working right and dies, it flies to Heaven to be with God". Just sort of keep it simple, and as she gets older the tougher questions will come and her understanding of it all will be easier to try to explain.



answers from Dallas on

When my dad died, my niece was about 5 and was convinced that his body was a statue not his actual body. She touched his body, and it was cold. That and looking similar but not exactly like he looked in life made her convinced that they had made a statue of him. She knew he was in heaven and told us that would take a big cloud to hold him. She was so upset that I think it was easier to let her believe what she wanted, as he is in heaven in whatever format. After the burial, we took the kids back to the cemetary with helium balloons that they released and sent up to heaven.

Last week my dog died, and my own 4 yr old is having a hard time trying to understand death and the loss of our dog. The only thing that really gives her comfort is that our dog is in heaven with her grandpa.



answers from Dallas on

Great idea! It is important to also teach children that only God can decide when one should die. It is not for us to decide. We live our life according to God's will. Otherwise, she might want to die immediately so that she can just go right to heave which is not God's will.



answers from Houston on

I don't remember how I explained this. I do remember being told, when my great-grandfather died (I would have been about 3) saying that he was through with his body, but that "the part of him that loves us" has gone to live with God.

If I remember right, he had been sick for awhile, so assuring me that he didn't have to hurt anymore was part of the explanation.

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