How do you explain death to a 4 year old

(11 Posts)
OhDearNigel Mon 30-Sep-13 01:19:48

My Fil died in july and we have lots of questions from dd who is 3.5. We go. To church and she has a vague concept of Baby Jesus from nativity. We told her that grandad died and has gone to live with Baby Jesus in heaven because he was too poorly to carry on living with Nanny. He can't come back because while he feels much, much better with jesus once you've died and gone to live in heaven you cant come back to live with us.

She seems to have grasped it as one of our cats died afterwards and she said at nursery that the pussy cat had died and it would be nice for grandad and baby jesus to have her envy

If you tell them the truth, children can often surprise you with their level of understanding. Nearly two years ago, my beautiful red-headed daughter Mia died unexpectedly at the age of 13 months. Her cousins and friends were all told that she got very sick and doctors couldn't help her and they wouldn't see her anymore, and it was very sad, but that she is loved by everyone and she will always be part of our family. And that it is ok to cry, because tears are simply liquid love.

They all dealt with it well, and the older ones (5 or 6 years old) did have questions and concerns which were answered openly by the adults. I did have to reassure a little girl who had been very sick that it wouldn't happen to her. A couple of older ones who had more of an understanding didn't want to talk about it, but one did admit to her mother "Sometimes you can be sad on the inside, mummy." They all came to the celebration of Mia's life.

Even two years on, Mia's friends talk about her. To one, she is her special "twinkle star friend." Another asked the other day if Mia was happy in heaven. A little boy wants to know how she reached the stars - by plane or ladder. Several of them have said Mia has come to play with them too.

So even with the death of another child, children do cope. I would strongly encourage you to be as open as you can be. These lovely people should not be hidden away in death, but loved and remembered and celebrated.

wonkylegs Mon 30-Sep-13 00:54:56

We were open and honest and tried to answer DSs questions. He actually accepted GFs death better than expected and with fewer questions. I think their innocence accepts things as told better than older children or adults. We did however get a lot of questions about when other people would die including a rather blunt questioning of granny.
He understood it better than my life long condition which he understood even less after GFs death.
He can't get his head round mummy always being poorly but also alright, why doesn't the hospital make me better each time I go and will mummy die like grandad?

jitterbug85 Mon 30-Sep-13 00:46:11

There is also another story about water bugs and dragonflies. I know they sell it on amazon so. Might be worth a Google. First heard about it when a vicar quoted from it in a child's funeral and it's never left me as an adult.

We had a book about trees when my mum died. Can't remember the title but I am sure there are lots of similar books available. DD was 3 at the time and I used to read it to her at bedtime.

rockybalboa Mon 19-Aug-13 10:48:41

Sorry for your loss.

I'm pretty blunt with my 4yo about death. I've just told him that sometimes, people's bodies just stop working properly either because they are very poorly or very old and they die. He always asks if they will get better again but I explain that once someone dies, that is it and they can't come back and it's very sad that we'll never see them again. I was devastated by the death of my best friend's mum to cancer last year and had to explain to DS why I was so upset.

TheUnicornsGoHawaiian Mon 19-Aug-13 10:46:41

maristella sounds as if this book will help us. Maybe im over thinking him having questions and worrying too much but I want to be prepared.

I remember my grandma dying when I was small and it was never discussed with me. People went quiet when I was around and it made me worry a lot.

TheUnicornsGoHawaiian Mon 19-Aug-13 10:44:00

Thank you donki I will see if I can get a copy.

maristella Mon 19-Aug-13 10:43:55

We also had the badger book for DS when he was small after losing my GM. I did get choked up reading it, as it is beautiful. thanks

Donki Mon 19-Aug-13 10:37:42

There is a lovely book called Badgers parting gifts that the hospice gave to DS when my Father died. It helped us to talk about the death.

TheUnicornsGoHawaiian Mon 19-Aug-13 10:27:34

Hopefully someone can help. We have had 2 very recent bereavements in our family. DS's aunty (my sis-in-law) and DS's great aunty (my aunty).

One was a shock and the other was expected as she was suffering with a terminal illness, but obviously still a shock.

Both ladies were a big part of DS's life and he saw them regularly.

As a family we are coping well and supporting each other but I think DS is struggling to understand what has happened.

So far, the subject hasnt cropped up. He has guessed little bits and thinks that his great aunty has gone somewhere to be made better.

If you have ever had to, how did you explained death to a youngster? I dont want him to be frightened or worried.

Any advice gratefully accepted.

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