How Did You Explain Death

Updated on October 23, 2008
S.E. asks from Stafford, VA
24 answers

Hi there. My little one is asking alot of questions about death. She is very fearful and not sure when and why. I answer to the best of my ability with the very limited knowledge of the "when and why". We attend church every sunday and try and try and be very active in the youth groups. I was brought up Baptist my husband catholic so we meet in the middle and attend a "Community Church". My daughter seems to be very confused and scared and I cant seem to commfort her. Maybe you moms out there can help me help her understand and not to worry so much. Again. She is 5 so putting this in words she can understand is difficult. Last night she asked me if people get baptised in church so they dont have to go to heaven... its all too much for her.

3 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

Featured Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.S.

answers from Cumberland on

Hi Sue,
I understand where you are coming from. My daughter was 5 when we lost my father and my husbands mother in a 3 month time span last year. What I found to be really helpful was to just let her talk. I answered her questions truthfully, to the best of my ability, but if I did not know the answer, I admitted to her I did not know. This may just be a phase she is going through and she may just need to talk. Let her know that is OK with you. She will have to make sense of it for herself.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.M.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi,
There are some very good books at the library or book store that discuss this topic for chidren.
Reading some advice for parents also helped me explain to my daughter who was 6 when my mom died. Children often have ideas that adults would never dream of since they have limited knowledge.

Good luck.

A.

More Answers

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.P.

answers from Richmond on

This is a tough one. Usually children do not realize that death is a reality until they are school age between the ages of 6-9. So, my first question would be is there anything that has happened in your child's or family's life that has put death in the forefront for her? At 5 years, she is dealing with the separation aspect and not the finality of death. Children 3-5 years are still in the magical thinking period and believe that magic still happens. That is why they talk through their stuffed animals. And they believe death is reversible. When the school age child approaches the concept of death, the child understands that it is permanent separation. They see it usually as dark and sometimes as evil.

Either your daughter is very advanced emotionally for her age or she has been exposed to death as a reality and this has frightened her. The one thing all children need is to know that she is safe within her family and she is very loved. As the child moves into school years, they think more concretely and can begin to understand the role of religion in the life/death cycle. IF you are involved in a church, perhaps the minister can talk with you and her.

I worked with children who had cancer for years and dealt with this issue with all age children. Assurance of love and security is the number one thing to give her.

Good luck. Children are wonderfully made!

A. Pryor

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

C.D.

answers from Washington DC on

My son is 6 and we had the same situation. I explained to him that when we die our bodies get buried in the ground but our souls go back to God. I explained our souls as being our thoughts, feelings, love for people, etc, and that God guards these until Jesus comes again to take us to Heaven. Our souls still hold all the love for him so even after we die our souls still love him forever. But in Heaven our souls aren't sad. His concerns stemmed from him wanting desperately to meet his grandpa (my husbands dad) who died when my husband was 13. We were honest with him and explained that smoking was partly if not mostly responsible for his death. I also explained to him about the circle of life and that usually people die when they are older but sometimes things happen where people get sick or hurt. I then explained that we take him to the Dr frequently for checkups so that they can see if he ever has any sicknesses and he always buckles up in the car and we do the best we can to be safe. We also told him that if anything ever happens to us he will always have someone to take care of him and he knows who he would live with. But when the topic 1st started I had him tell me what he thought and why and then made sure that idea was addressed. His biggest issue was why we die and what does it feel like. Good luck with this. This is a hard one.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

B.D.

answers from Washington DC on

Hello Sue,

My now 15-year-old son went through about a year of being fearful and asking about death when he was 7-8. My approach was to remind him about "his Father's house". You know, "In my Father's house there are many rooms...", and I would tell him that there was a very special room waiting for him in God's house in heaven. The longer he lived, the more wonderful the room would become. I believe having a strong faith really helps during times like these. Seeing your faith in what God has in store for you will hopefully reassure your child. It's tough to see them frightened!

Janet

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.O.

answers from Norfolk on

I went on line recently and found some very good information. It was helpful, as this issue came up with my three year old son. I realize his questions are much different from your daughters but I wanted to get it right and have the same answers if this come up again. One of the simplest explanations seemed to be that we die when we get very very old and our bodies cannot work properly any more, like we cannot eat or use the bathroom or live normally (things they can maybe understand.) Use straight words, such as "die", do not use "going to sleep for a long time" or anything like that because they may then be afraid to go to sleep.
This site seemed pretty good: http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/parenting_tips/death_and_l...
But there were many that I found. My best to you.

1 mom found this helpful
Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

N.H.

answers from Washington DC on

You can talk to the child about the seeds you planted, the plants and beautiful flowers. Then in the fall the flowers weren't as pretty and started to die. But we know that more beautiful flowers can grow. This is God's plan. People grow old and die, God takes them to heaven, where we will go if we believe in Him.

Grandma N.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

E.V.

answers from Roanoke on

My son (just turned 5 on the 26th), has had some concerns about this here and there lately. He just gets sad and says he will miss me if HE dies (not if I do). And he says he doesn't want to die. I have told him that he doesn't have worry about that for a long time, and that everyone dies, but that is why we keep Jesus in our hearts so we can all be together when we die. He still doesn't seem to understand, but after a while he stops crying. I have hugged him while talking about it too (some of the times I was driving). I like a lot of these ideas, and will keep them in mind for next time he brings it up! Not only that, but since he watched shows that have dying in them (star wars for example), my 2 year old son is always saying (his word for) Darth Vader die. Or whatever. I'm like, "great, my 2 year old is obsessed w/dying"! There is no way I can explain it to him, but at least he's not worried about it. he just talks about it everytime we see the Darth Vader costume picture at walmart! can't wait for Halloween to be over for that reason! haha! I hope all these other suggestions have helped you, and good luck! Its great to see all these Christian Moms w/advice!

F.W.

answers from Danville on

Dear sue -

I agree with the first poster..."The Fall of Freddie the Leaf" by leo bascallia is a really wonderful book for kids regarding death. There is another one...sorry I do not remember the author...called "The Waterbug Story". In essence it chronicles a wather bug who's friends all float up to the surface of the water...and do not return. He is frightened by this...and promises his friends that he will not float up and disappear, and IF he does...he will come back and tell them. Eventually, he does float to the top...grows wings...and becomes a dragonfly! He does try to 'dive bomb' back to his waterbug friends...but his wings prevent him! Any way, he finally realizes that in time his friends will transform into dragonflies as well. He is sad he cannot tell them, but is quite excited to be a dragon fly...and is happy that his friends will be with him again when they are ready! (oops! Guess I told the ending!! LOL)

Good luck!
Michele/catwalk

PS
I just read the post prior to mine about a 'pinky promise'...and I personally would hesitate to make such a promise as no one knows when or how death will occur. On a happy note, one of my twins was expected to die at birth. My older six children (including her twin) were 7 and younger at the time. There were constant questions from ALL of them about shannon. As it turns out, she DID spend her first three years in the hospital. Many children around her with a MUCH better prognosis died. I am happy to report that she and her sister will be 12 years old on October 13th! She has been home with us since she was 3 years and one week old! She continues to defy medical odds! My younger brother, on the other hand, died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 40 3 years ago...

Take Care

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

K.H.

answers from Dover on

I went through the same thing, at a younger age with my daughter. Even harder at 4!! My daughter was freaking out about death, and what it would mean..and was scared about her or I dying in particular. It is really hard to explain a topic so deep like that with one so young. Pretty much anything that would help aid one with these fears, so that they feel better, are too hard for a little one to understand! Try and pinpoint what about death is so scary for her. FOr my daughter it was her and I being seperated. The idea of that was unbearable for her, sending her into hysterics when she would get on that topic. Just be understanding. For my daughter, making a "pinky promise" geared towards her fear, and we would make the pinky promise, pinkies linking in all...every time she got scared. She is 6 now, and the pinky promise still stands, she still remembers it!! The topic will eventually work through, and will lighten up. Feel free to email me if you want to talk further about it, as I know it is hard to discuss with people- with death being a religious type of topic, varying greatly on peoples beliefs.
K.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

D.B.

answers from Dover on

Hi Sue,
I think your daughter may really be scared of you or daddy leaving her. I like the earlier explanation given that we die when our bodies are old and no longer work properly.

As I explain the concept of "bodies die when they're old," I know full well that's not always the case. But I also know that most people don't have to face this fact when they're young and, should my son be confronted with death, we'll deal with the reality when it occurs. I don't want to burden his little heart with facts and reality he's not ready for but that may never come to fruition.

Keep it light, don't be emotional and just give her the facts in a simple way. Good luck!!
D.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

A.M.

answers from Norfolk on

Sue - I am a grandmother of 5 now. My children had the same questions as the little one's do now. I too was raised Baptist and am now Catholic - death is the same with both denominations.
I think the more you talk about and try to explain to a 5 year old, the more confused (and afraid) they will get. Try something like "Death is a time when we get to see everyone that we know that has died already, and we have a BIG party! beacuse we are so happy to see them again" If she continues with other questions, change the subject to shift her attention to something she enjoys doing. She is too young to really understand (or remember) anything you say at this age.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

N.W.

answers from Washington DC on

Hello Sue I don't know if I could be of much help but I just had a passing in my family- my dad.The service was Monday. I have a 13yr old which of course understands but didn't show much emotion at first, not until her little brother got her upset about something else which trickled into her feelings about my dad. As for my now 7yr old (as of Sunday) I guess his reaction was to be expected. He really only asked what happened to him & I explained that he couldn't fight his illness any longer but he was now w/ GOD and that he would be O.K..He seemed to be more fixated on if he would see his cousins.So I think that you have pretty much done what you can especially since she's 5 of couse at that age they have 1000 ?'s, but you just answer accordingly. And until they actually experience it (going to someones service)they don't know. Hope I helped just a little

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.O.

answers from Washington DC on

just tell her she came from god before she was born and when someone dies it is just the godsway of bringing us back to him and they don't really die becuse hey always stay in our heart

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.S.

answers from Washington DC on

hi sue. depending on how old you daughter is i guess would say what you woould tell her. the promise is tho that if she has Jesus in her heart that death will not be final for her or her parents if Jesus is in their heart.
i grew up at st timothys also in catonsville. mom accepted Jesus first then i did a couple months later when i was 9. now i am 45. PTL that mom always reminded me when i was afraid or a loved one died they were with Jesus.

answer her questions to the point. like why do people die could be because they are tired. if that satisfies thats good if not go to the next question. email me
S. [email protected]____.com no space between words

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.L.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi Sue,

We have a similar faith. My son who is 3 has also asked me about death and why people die (my husband's grandfather passed away last year and he heard us talking about him). I explained to him that when people accept Jesus as their savior they get to go to heaven to live with God. But that people who don't know Jesus and accept him go to a bad place. He seems to accept this explanation and understand it. I hope this helps a little.

Good Luck & God Bless!
J.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

S.C.

answers from Norfolk on

We simply explain it from the perspective of our faith. I tell them that god loves them and made them and wants them to be with him when they die some day so he sent his son, Jesus, to earth. Jesus was perfect and we are not. You need to be perfect to live in heaven some day. We sin or do bad things because we are not perfect. Jesus died to take our punishment for our sins away so that we can go live with God in heaven when we die. All that we need to do is pray and admit to God that we are not perfect and ask him to forgive us, believe that Jesus is God's son and that he paid the price for our sins by dying and then was raised from the dead by God, and then put Jesus in charge of their life or live their life the way that Jesus wants them too.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.L.

answers from Charlottesville on

I recently lost my younger sister to cancer and had to explain to my 3 1/2 and 2 yr olds how and why she died. I used several books including "the fall of freddie the leaf" and "Lifetimes, the beautiful way to explain death to children" by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. The second is my favorite as it touches on lifecycles of all living things not just people. The simplest explanation is the easiest to understand - we die when our bodies stop working. This doesn't necessarily mean when we are old however, sickness and accidents happen. If your daughter is worried you or your husband will die, the words to use are that you "intend" to live a long life and take care of her. It is important not to lie or promise to be around for a long time as she is certainly old enough to remember what you say to her now especially as this is an understanding she will keep with her for a long time. I have also read that using a lot of religious ideals to explain death is very confusing for young children. The simple and natural explanation that death is a part of life seems to work best. Good luck.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

N.B.

answers from Washington DC on

I don't know if this helps or not. When our dog died I told my son that our dog went to live in God's house. I told him that he was too sick for us to take care of anymore, but that God could take care of him, so he lived with God now. My son has asked about him a few times since and I have said "Remember? He lives with God now." I don't know if this helps, it may be way out of context. My son seemed to accept it pretty well.

Good luck, this is a toughie!
N.

S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

hi sue,
when my younger was a little fella he had recurring terrors about death. i tried all sorts of soothing explanations centered around my own beliefs, but he was looking for absolutes which of course can't be offered. what worked best for him was to hug him very close and let him talk, and ask leading questions and make comforting noises but NOT to try and explain away his fears. letting him talk it out was the best way to let the terror slowly release its grip on him, but it took time and the realization that i could not fix this for him in any simplistic way.
good luck!
khairete
S.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

L.F.

answers from Norfolk on

Sue,
obviously, your child has seen or heard something to cause her to obsess over death, which is not uncommon. My husband lost his father to cancer when he was just 6 years old and he became obsessed with death and going to hell(heard about it in church). It took some talks from his mom and explaining that it is a normal process and not something to fear.
My husband's family are very strong Christians, so his mother focused on 'seeing Jesus and any other loved ones that were already there'.
It sounds like your daughter has heard some salvation message and is not correctly understanding the concept because it's a tough one to put into 5 yr. old language. But try...and maybe read her some books or talk to her sunday school teacher about whether or not she could have misunderstood something taught or maybe a friend's comment.
You'll have to work on giving her peace with the idea of dying, heaven and hell...but also in getting down to the bottom of her fears( like maybe she will die or you will)
Hope this helps a little, hang in there,keep talking to her and you'll work through it.
L.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

M.L.

answers from Washington DC on

Hi Sue. can't really offer a solution but I can share our experience. my 3 year old talks a lot about death, and yes it bothers me. However he doesn't talk about it in a fearful way but just asks questions... this happened because my husband tells him a lot of stories about his huge family and some of the people in the stories have already passed away. When my son asks to meet this characters, my husband doesn't talk about their death in a negative manner, but just another fact of life. "they have already gone to heaven. one day we will all be dead and meet up in heaven" (we're catholic). I don't like all this death talk, but I must admit that my husband has done a pretty good job in introducing the subject without causing reluctance. I believe children pick up our cues, and if we're negative about it, then so will they be. On the other hand, if we show a different example, then that's what they take away. good luck!

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

T.A.

answers from Norfolk on

Hi Sue,

This may sound crazy, but the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" has given my 4 yr old twins a handle on death that's not scary. In it's way it adresses death and those who live on after a loved one has passed away. Now when when we pass a cemetary, one of the boys mention's the movie and death is not scary, but "part of life".

All the best and God bless you.
T. A.

Smallavatar-fefd015f3e6a23a79637b7ec8e9ddaa6

J.R.

answers from Richmond on

There is a wonderful book called "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf". I used this book when my children lost their grandparents. It helps a lot and isn't scary and puts in a way kids can understand. I hope this helps!! Good luck!!

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions