How to Tell My 2 Yr Old Her Grandma Passed Away

Updated on January 26, 2011
C.W. asks from McKinleyville, CA
16 answers

My mom recently lost her battle with cancer, and yes my world is upside down with questions and emotions. But my specific question is how do I answer my 2 yr old when she asks where her grandma is? It breaks my heart! And she really is too young to understand. Thank you for any advice. This just happened 2 days ago.

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answers from Modesto on

Sorry for you. {{hug}}
Two yr olds are out of sight out of mind thinkers, this will not affect her. She will only get her cues from you.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Tell her the truth in simple easy to understand language. Tell her grandma died, and that means that she went to heaven to live with god. We won't get to see her again for a long long time. Explain to her that mommy will be sad for a while and that mommy will cry but it is okay to cry, because mommy loved grandma very very much and will miss her. Simple and to the point, truthful and easy to understand. So sorry for your loss and may god grant you strength to get through this.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I am so very very sorry for your loss.

I would just tell her in a sweet way (as much as you can keep it together) that her grandma is now in heaven (if you believe in heaven). I would keep it very simple. If she asks questions, just answer them with simple answers. Do not "get technical". You might find that she will just want to comfort you if she sees you sad. Take her comfort.

Again, I am very sorry for your loss.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My husband's grandma passed away when my son was 2. We were very close to her and so was my son. We told him that Grandma went to heaven and we will miss her but we will see were again. If she asks why tell her b/c she was very sick. You don't need to keep information from her, you just need to tell her in "kid" terms.

I'm so sorry for your lose.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm an sorry for your loss. My father passed away right before Christmas of lung cancer; so I understand what you are going through. I have two children are 16yrs and 2yrs old. I took them both to the wake. I took my 2 year old right up to the casket and told her, "baby, your pa-pa is now gone. see how he is sleeping, he is in heaven now with your grahm-grahms. he will see you in your dreams and will protect you from up in the clouds. so say bye-bye." She said byebye and I told him I loved him and she is fine. Every now and then she points to a corner and says, 'its him" so i know he is there.

Just be honest and talk to your child in an easy way about it and your child will be okay. It may be a bit easier on your child; honestly my oldest took it the hardest due to my mom passed away in 2007 before thanksgiving and now my father in before christmas in 2010. As long as we comfort them; it will be okay. Once again, I am truly sorry for the loss of your mother.

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answers from New York on

Hi C., I am very sorry for your loss- death is hard at any age and any circumstance. I would say when they are young keep it simple. When my brother recently died, we told my almost 3 year old son that Uncle died. I did not go into any extra explanations, and he did not ask also. Though, we live abroad and the other day he saw a picture of him on the computer and said 'Uncle not died' because he is so used to speaking to people on skype. It may bring more questions when we go to his home and he is not there, but we will see.
My son has had many people come and go in his life due to travelling and he only rarely asks me about people that are not with him at that moment. If your child does ask more questions I would give age appropriate answers in line with your faith. May you find peace within you during this difficult time.



answers from Sacramento on

I am so very sorry for your loss. I know it's hard to try and explain things to such a young child. My daughter was 3 when her "papa", (my dad) died 4 years ago. I explained to her that he had been sick but passed away and now he is in heaven. I also said that he is her angel now looking over her and protecting her. Believe it or not, my daughter actually helped me cope. She showed empathy when I cried at times and it helped having/needing to take care of her. It helped keep me going during the difficult time of dealing with the loss, the funeral, etc.

At 2 she won't understand exactly, but she'll know something is different and as she gets older you can keep your mother's memory alive by showing her pictures and talking about her. It's helped doing that with my now 7 year old.

Take care.


answers from Chicago on

I believe there are illustrated books that deal with "heaven" etc. for this exact situation that might help best (and keep you from being emotional when telling her). I would scope out amazon (look at the reviews), order one, and then start slowly reading it and break into the heaven situation. I haven't had to deal with this situation yet but likely will with toddlers in coming years.

Best wishes and I am so sorry for your loss.



answers from San Francisco on

C., I am so sorry for your loss!! Did your daughter know grandma was sick? I would let her know that grandma will always be watching over her but she is no longer in pain. She will never be gone because she is in your heart!
Prayers to your family!



answers from San Francisco on

Hugs to you--you're going through a lot yourself as a daughter, while at the same time needing to be mom to your child.
I would recommend getting a copy of LIFETIMES by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. It's subtitled "A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children", and I think it's the best I've seen as a children's librarian. The book explains that every creature that lives has a lifetime. Some are short, some are long, and some are cut short by accidents or illness. It focuses on the physical, not on the spiritual, to help a child understand what death is, and that it is a part of life. From there, you can talk about spiritual beliefs. Prayers to you during this difficult time.



answers from San Francisco on

C., the fact that you have the ability to ask this question in a time of pain is remarkable. When my husband passed away I didn't even think for a month. With our grandchildren we explained that Papa had a special job he needed to do for Heavenly Father and he was going to be gone for awhile before we could see him once again. We have had 2 born since his death and we put out as many photos with them all together and him at different ages as possible on the frig and in the home. The children and I have created a tradition of having a balloon go to heaven so that Papa and the Angels can have it and they are in charge of planting a new flower inthe yard for him as well as they go to the cemetary and place flowers for him and what our 2 year old calls Papa's friends that don't have flowers on thier gravesites. It is easier for a child to accept and understand that they are still apart of them than you you may think. I often get from our 9yo what did Pap think about xxx what ever is on her mind. So the legacy lives on. Since he too died of cancer they are even more aware of being elpful and kind to families that have it.
My sincer prayers for your healing and going thru all the firsts of this year and the many changes that will take place in your life. Those on Mama Care will always be here for you.



answers from Minneapolis on

Sorry to hear about your loss, my father just passed away suddenly a few months back and telling my 3 yr old boy and 5 yr old girl was veyr hard, my sone 3 still doesn't fully understand and my daughter had/and is still having a rough time just like me :(

Anyhow books: Books are the best way I have found. There are lots of choices our there depending apon your beliefs. If you are christian I can give you some good ideas on good books about heaven. Otherwise I know that they are a lot of other childrens books that explain death.

Again sorry for your loss.



answers from San Francisco on

I feel for you. I lost my mother 8 yes ago and she was never able to meet my children. We lost my aunt who was sort of her surrogate grandmother this summer after a sudden 3 mth onset of cancer. My daughter is 3 1/2 and really loved this aunt. I told her she was sick and that medicine couldn't help. I've stressed with both my aunt and mother that sometimes when people are old they get sick and can't get better (my mom was only 59 but I don't Sandburg to be scared mommy and daddy could die). Yes eventually she'll learn differently but this is already a lot to process.

If you do not have a religious explanation for what happens in death as our family does not I actually used fairies as something she could relate to as she loves Tinkerbell. I told her when someone body gets so broken we can't fix it sometimes they become fairies like Tinkerbell but they are invisible. They still love us and protect us. Basically sounds like angels but something she could understand. I think she finally understands after a few mths that she won't see her anymore.

Give yourself a lot of "slack." your moods will go up and down. The oddest things might trigger your grief. It's a whole I don't think ever completelyncloses but it changes and you will be able to smile about the good memories soon.



answers from San Francisco on

God Bless you C. and know that we are praying for you to be strong and make it through this terrible loss. You are a great mom and start collecting things so your daughter can always remember her "Grandma." You can tell her that Grandma is gone to heaven to watch over her and protect her make sure she grows up healthy, smart and is always a good girl. Take Care!!!



answers from San Francisco on

I was doing childcare when my husband passed away and we had a little one that he had taken care of since she was seven weeks old.She was just two and a half at the time. I just talked with her, not more than a sentence or two, and asked her. I would say, Desiree, where is your Ralph daddy? and eventually, she told me that my Ralph daddy is up there and pointed skyward. I knew that she had accepted that he was gone and in heaven. It wasn't easy for her to express it, but she did know he wasn't coming back.



answers from Modesto on

My son was 3 when one of our cats died and grandpa lost his battle with cancer. We never told him grandpa was sick just that he was tired a lot. There was usually so much else going on and other people to play with he didn't notice/care Grandpas sleeping so often. Anyway, when the cat died and when Grandpa died I told him that they had gone to live in heaven with God and wouldn't be living here with us anymore. God had asked them to come and live with him. When you die you go and live with God. Only GOd decides when you can come and live with him, we do not choose. That was good enough, although there is no complete understanding at that age. He kept saying he wanted to see the cat or Grandpa and I had to keep repeating that we cannot see them anymore since they are now living with God. Finally, the asking faded away.

My daughter coughed hard enough to make her throw up her lunch yesterday (flu). I asked my son (now 4) to fetch a towel and do other things to help me and he did. Later, I praised him and gave him a reward for being such a wonderful help to me. In the course of our talking about his good help he mentioned he did it in part because he loves his sister and didn't want her to die and go and live with God!. Although he's older and has learned that coughing/choking can make you die he still remembered the concept that when you die you live with God and not with us. GO figure!

Unless your child already knows Grandma was sick, I wouldn't mention it. If they associate sickness with death, then every time they themselves or someone they know is sick they will have a lot of stress thinking they will die. Simply explaining somehow that the person is no longer around will suffice. I'm so sorry your mother has passed. May time temper your sorrow and let happy memories remain.

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