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Talking to Grandchildren About Death

My four-year-old grandson's father is dead. As a matter of fact, he never got to know his father because he was murdered prior to his birth.

Up until now, his mother and I have chosen not to discuss this tragedy but lately, this little boy's inquiring mind has been wanting to understand more about what life and death is all about.

Long before we realize it, children become aware of death. They see dead birds, insects, and animals lying by the road. They may see death at least once a day on television.

Meanwhile, we, as adults, do our best to shield our children from the sting of death. Many of us are inclined not to talk about things that upset us. We try to put a lid on our feelings and hope that saying nothing will be for the best. But not talking about something doesn't mean we aren't communicating. Children are great observers. They read messages on our faces. We express ourselves by what we do, by what we say, and by what we do not say.

Primary care physician Dr. Claire McCarthy says, "No matter the circumstances, teaching children about death is hard. We don’t want childhood to be sad, so we don’t like to talk about death."

In my grandson's case, I chose to tell him his dad has gone to be with Jesus. His response was "Can I go live with them?"

My reply: "Jesus will send for you when you're finished helping him out here--and that will be a long time from now."

How would you have responded?


Anonymous said…
I can't imagine a better response than that. That was beautiful.
Rhonda J. said…
I have to agree with the anonymous writer, you couldn't have responded in a more loving and sensitive way.
Pam Archer said…
Your response was perfect!
Val said…
I don't know how I'd have responded, Beverly, but I do remember that when I was the same age - 4yrs old - I knew what death was from having had close shaves with it myself from time to time from asthma... and being in hospital and noticing children suddenly not being there...

As you say, children become aware of death. It's trying to connect the reality of it to the soul-feeling they have of it, that's hard.

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