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Old 05-02-2012, 10:41 AM   #1
Joyful Tie Dyes
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How to explain someone's absence (due to death)

To a young child (2.5) without religious references? My GFIL died this morning and he connects "Granny and Pappy" and will ask where Pappy is. What do you tell a child this young?


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Old 05-02-2012, 10:51 AM   #2
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Re: How to explain someone's absence (due to death)

My mom passed in November and explaining it to my almost 5 year old was difficult. I'm still not 100% sure she understands it.

We did our best to explain to her that Grandma couldn't come back to be with us even though she loves us very much. We talked about Heaven and whenever DD1 has a question about Grandma we answer it. Heaven was a comforting thing to DD. It put Grandma in a "place".

We buy balloons when she is feeling sad and let her draw pictures and talk to the balloon and then we let her send it off to Grandma.

Death is a very hard thing to explain - We did our best to do it in a way we felt best for our daughter

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Old 05-02-2012, 11:05 AM   #3
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We had family members get sick and pass when both girls were 3 and 2. I explained it that sometimes when we get really old our bodies stop working right and then sometimes just stop working. We call that dieing and then we bury the body(we are believers so I went a lil further but you could just stop there.) And although we couldnt see the person again we could look at pictures and tell stories.about them. Both girls went to funerals and I explained again that their bodies stopped working and this is when we bury them. I dont know how much they understood but they seemed satisfied with that. Just dont explain it like sleeping in any form b/c a little kid will more then likely think they will die the next time they go to sleep. I also didnt want to say our loved ones were sick and then died b/c I was afraid they would freak out they next time they got a cold. Sorry for your loss mama
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:26 PM   #4
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Re: How to explain someone's absence (due to death)

I don't think there is any way to explain it to a 2.5yr old that they will understand. No matter what they will still keep asking - usually at wildly inappropriate times. I think all you can do is just keep saying that he died and we miss him and look at photos.

Our cat died when dd1 was 5 and she really didn't understand. She saw her get sick, and knew she was old but when she was gone it really didn't make sense to her. And because she was older she wanted to know what 'dead' was. (and for some reason was obsessed with whether she died with her eyes open or shut??)
We did use the 'kitty heaven' idea but then she wanted us to describe kitty heaven in detail and discuss it endlessly! So that wasn't the best idea...
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:32 PM   #5
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Re: How to explain someone's absence (due to death)

My MIL passed in August and my middle dd was 2.5 at that time. Complicating matters is the fact that she is behind in speech and I am never sure just how much she gets and her vocabulary is limited.

Honestly, I haven't explained it really. She's only asked about "gwama" once or twice and we just say she's not here, or can't be here and she's been satisfied with that. If I try to use the word dead or died, she will not understand that at all and I really don't have a clue how to explain it so she will understand. We only saw them probably twice a month and she sees my parents more like two or three times a week, so she's fine with the "gwama" she's got.
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:37 PM   #6
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Kids are not really developmentally able to understand death until they are 7. Whatever you decide to tell, know you will likely have to do it over and over. It is also not uncommon for kids to have a delayed grief reaction once they truly understand it.
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:44 PM   #7
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Re: How to explain someone's absence (due to death)

I think it depends on the child but we told our children something very similar to the pp. That sometimes your body gets very old or sick and it cannot work anymore. When your body stops working you "pass away" or die. I kinda lean towards the pass away language because I didn't really want my toddler yelling about "dead" and "died". We explained that once a person dies that you can no longer see them or talk to them. We are not christian but when they are older 4ish we have explained other beliefs including heaven. I do believe that you have an energy and that your energy must "go" somewhere so we told them what I believe and that our loved one is no where and every where at the same time.
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Old 05-02-2012, 02:56 PM   #8
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Re: How to explain someone's absence (due to death)

I tried explaining death (of our cat) to DD just before she turned 2...she did okay, but we do repeat it quite frequently b/c she still asks after the cat & calls him her favorite cat. I explained it along the lines of:

Slim (the cat) was very, very sick, so we took him to the kitty doctor (DD went w/ me). Slim was so sick that the kitty doctor couldn't help him, so the kitty doctor helped us say bye-bye to Slim, and then Slim died. He went bye-bye and he couldn't come home with us, he's not coming home and we're not going to see him ever again. Slim dying made mama very, very sad, so mama cried, but she feels a little better now. She still misses Slim, but feels better that he doesn't have to be sick anymore.

DD doesn't really "get it", but she kind of gets it; she gets it as much as a 2y.o. can, YK? Every couple of weeks she'll ask & verify details ("Slim go bye-bye?" "Yes honey, Slim went bye-bye. He died & he's not coming home." "Oh. Make mama sad. Mama cried." "Yep, I cried, but do I feel better now?" "Yes, mama feel better."). She did freak out the first time I took the dog to the vet afterward & I felt terrible for traumatizing her, but I feel like she understands it as well as she can right now; we'll build on the concept in the future, as she can understand more.
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