Questions About Death and Dying.

Updated on January 01, 2012
S.G. asks from Reading, MA
10 answers

Hi Moms

I am wondering if any of your kids are asking you about dying. My five year old daughter talks about dying at least once a week. She does not seem to be afraid of dying. Mikayla will ask me when I will die and if I will miss her. I am sometimes at a loss as to what to say. We talk about being with God and that I will always love her. Mikayla has not experienced the death of anyone. At times she does hear me talk about my work as a hospice social worker. I am looking for any suggestions and advice.

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So What Happened?

Hey moms:

Thanks for your input. It was very reassuring to know that this is a normal stage of development. One of my co-workers suggested Freddy the Leaf; which I will read to her.


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answers from Providence on

My now ten year old used to ask random questions regarding death and dying at that age and even now comes out with questions about missing us when we die.The comments seem to come from no where and he hasn't experienced death of a person (only animals) We simply answer the questions, like you, simply and matter of factly and leave it alone. I think that they are still at that age, where they can't grasp that death means never again to see. Just keep answering the questions with consistency and soon they will become less frequent.

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answers from Boston on

This is absolutely a normal developmental stage your child is going through. At 5, death is a curiosity. Yes, she may be overhearing you speaking about someone who has died in hospice.
I found this information for you from

Three to Six Years
Child's Perception: Child thinks death is reversible; temporary, like going to sleep or when a parent goes to work; believes that people who die will come back

"Magical thinking"; believes their thoughts, actions, word caused the death; or can bring deceased back; death is punishment for bad behavior
Still greatly impacted by parent's emotional state
Has difficulty handling abstract concepts such as heaven
Regressive behaviors; bed wetting, security blanket, thumb sucking, etc.
Difficulty verbalizing therefore acts out feelings
Increased aggression - more irritable, aggressive play
Will ask the same questions repeatedly in efforts to begin making sense of loss
Only capable of showing sadness for short periods of time
Escapes into play
Somatic symptoms
Hungers for affection and physical contact, even from strangers
Connects events that don't belong connected
May exhibit little anxiety due to belief that deceased is coming back
Providing Support:

Keep normal routines and structure whenever possible
Provide opportunities to play, draw
Read books on death & loss with child
Help to verbalize feelings and fears
Help to identify feelings and reactions
Be honest and tell a child if you do not have an answer
Explain in specific, concrete language - not euphemisms; explain what has happened giving specific explanations about physical reality of death
Gently confront magical thinking
Make sure child does not feel responsible for the death
Be tolerant of regressive behaviors
Modeling healthy coping behaviors
Avoid clichés; "At least you have another brother", "You can always get a new pet"
Use specific, concrete words - not euphemisms; Avoid "Mommy has gone to sleep", "God has taken Grandpa"

When my daughter was 6, my husband died. She really did think she could jump off a bridge, or stab herself and die and that way she could go 'visit' daddy. She knew one had to die to go to that place called Heaven where daddy "lived'. It was a very scary time for me thinking she was suicidal at 6...when really she was just trying to figure it all out and wondering if she could just visit her daddy and then come home to mommy again.


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answers from New York on

I wish I could help you but I am also going through the same problem with my six year old daughter. It started a year ago that she began wishing she could die, not liking her family, and wanting to leave her home. She is a problematic child at home, a mess-maker, but so far I get no complaints from her teachers at school. I am a single mom of two girls and she is the youngest sister. I do not know what to do, I am really worried and scared.



answers from Boston on

It is normal for kids this age to be curious about death. You can be somewhat open with her about it and our cultural beliefs around death (ie, heaven, etc) and just reassure her that you are going to live to be a little old lady.



answers from Boston on

My son who is almost 4 asks a lot of questions about death too, and he's never known anyone (or any animal) who has died. It's hard to know what to say because he's very nonchalant, seemingly callous, about death (which is probably normal given that he doesn't really understand it), and that bothers me a little bit. I don't want to scare him about it, but I also want him to understand that it's a serious thing if I say he will be killed if he gets hit by a car. So I don't know how to answer all the questions, but I do think death questions are probably a normal thing at this age.



answers from Boston on

Hi S.,

While all children are curious about death, (just as they are curious about where they came from) obviously your daughter is more aware because of your work as a hospice social worker.

I would continue to be matter of fact in your conversation and give only enough information to satisfy her curiosity. The more comfortable you are with your feelings about death and dying, the more comfortable you will be sharing with your daughter.

I am a nurse who works in critical care. I quickly learned I had to resolve my own feelings before I could be useful to others.

People cope in different ways and we all vacillate between different coping methods. Despite being a Christian, at times, I still revert to a sort of separation "that is them, my life is different". We have to do this periodically to maintain ourselves in a state of living.

Of course, we must also respect the belief system of our patients in order to be therapeutic to them, so our intervention with them is based upon their need not ours. Because of this we must take time to care for ourselves separate from our patients.

Maybe a reevaluation of your own feelings and beliefs will make you feel more comfortable with your daughters queries.

J. L.



answers from Boston on

My twins are 5 and our cat passed away when they were 3. I had purchased a book for them ("Kitty Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant)that helped them - all the kitties get to sleep on God's bed, etc.

But at 5, they are asking a lot more questions about when people are going to die. We always say "not for a long time". They ask about my grandmother and how she died, and do I miss her, etc.

I think it's a natural thing at this age. I just try to answer their questions as best I can, and try to treat it as just another topic of conversation. I don't want it to be taboo.



answers from Providence on

We went through this with our five year old last year when he was four. I think this is a fairly normal stage as they start becoming more aware of their world. I was shocked at first too -- where do they even learn such a word or concept? It is amazing.

We are Catholic and we live near LaSalette in Attleboro so I went to the gift shop there and found a couple good children's book which we read for a little while and that seemed to help. The books are definitely Christian but not necessarily Catholic based so would be good for other religions as well.

He did outgrow it after a little while. I don't remember how long it took, but it wasn't too long.

Good luck!



answers from Lewiston on

Our son went through this, too, 3 years ago. But we attributed it to the fact that 3 extended family members passed away within a 4-month period. We talked about it frankly with him. I don't believe in sugar coating or saying things like "they've gone away". We believe in Heaven, so we could give him the assurance that we would see them again some day. We reassured him that mom and dad were not sick, were not dying, etc. After a while he talked about it less and less and then not at all anymore. Your son may or may not realize that you work with dying people in your job, and your mother is elderly. Kids are very perceptive. Just gently reassure him about the subject as it comes up. It is part of life for all of us, and we have to make the best of life while we are here. Good luck.



answers from Boston on

My 5-year old daughter asks the same questions, and we haven't had any deaths to deal with (thankfully). I think it is a phase, and they are trying to figure something out.
Usually I say that I won't die for a long time and that it is "normal" to die. She is very ok with the answers, and I'll leave it as that unless she asks more detailed questions.

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