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Explaining death to a three year old

(6 Posts)
ScottishInSwitzerland Tue 22-Oct-13 09:34:36

My granny is terminally ill. The nurse indicated about a fortnight ago that she only has weeks left, and she has certainly gone downhill since then.

I have an 18 month old and a 3.5 year old. The 18 month old obviously won't be aware of much. But my older girl loves her great granny.

She's been in to see her lots, and I have explained that she is v poorly and old and tired. Relatives had a dog who died about three months ago and I tried to explain to her that the dog had died. But she didn't get it. Kept asking where he was.

I'd just like to be a little prepared re great granny for her.


at that sort of age we lost an elderly neighbour DD was close too.
We primed her a bit by explaining he was very poorly then when he died said his body was old and worn out and unfortunately the doctors couldn't fix it so he died and we are all very sad.
I would advise avoiding any mention of going to sleep and not waking up as they can get scared that other people might go to sleep and not wake up too.

Poledra Tue 22-Oct-13 09:42:08

My husband's cousin and his teenage son were killed in a road accident when DD1 was a similar age. I guess it was easier for us in that we only saw them once or twice a year so DD1 didn't have strong memories of them. I told her that their bodies had been hurt so badly that the doctors couldn't fix them and they had died and that meant we wouldn't see them again ever. It made Grandma very sad, so she might cry because she would miss them.

I guess in your situation I'd talk about your great-grandma being old and her body wearing out. TBH, I don't think they really 'get' the not seeing them ever again until it's a reality. I agree you should tell them this but I don't think they get the concept so she will probably keep asking where great-granny is for a while.

I'm sorry you're going through this. Look after yourself thanks

Rooble Tue 22-Oct-13 09:55:34

My grandfather died when DS was similar age - we said his body was tired out and had died. We would never see him again, but because we loved him so much we would always remember him. Also that we would initially be sad because we could no longer hug him or talk to him, but that at the funeral all the people who had known him would meet up, feel sad together, then remember all the lovely stuff about him, so we'd feel glad that we'd been lucky enough to have known him.
Children take it more in their stride than you expect, but can ask difficult or tactless, and I'm inclined to think it's best to be honest with them.

ScottishInSwitzerland Wed 23-Oct-13 08:49:18

Thanks. Not sure that they would be going to the funeral. Might consider it for the elder dd. but there's various family tensions so it might be even more stressful for a little one than a funeral might otherwise be.

I will focus on the broken body thing and not too much on the too tired thing.

Gingerbreadbaker Thu 24-Oct-13 17:29:46

Winstons Wish has some very sensible advice for talking to children/teenagers about death. Here's the link I agree with Moaning Minge that you need to be very careful about the language you use - no going to sleep, going away to a special place etc....can make the child anxious about going to sleep themselves, or think the person's coming back. We had to explain the sudden and violent death of a friend to our DC when they were younger, and we found WW very useful. Take the time to look after yourself too.

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