My father died in May. We decided not to tell ds because he was only 4 and we hadnt needed to discuss death with him at that point for anything else.
My father had been ill for a while, and every time we visited my parents (they live 3 hours away) he was in respite anyway so ds didnt really have a relationship with him, he saw him maybe 3 or 4 times a year briefly for an hour. They didnt talk on the phone either so totally different to the relationship he has with my mum or my inlaws.
Now he's a bit older we have explained that when you get very old you die and go to heaven which is up in the clouds etc etc.
He's mentioned my father on and off a few times and this week said 'i havent seen grandad for ages' . I just changed the subject, but I need to deal with this, but dont know how to do it properly, the longer this goes on the worse it will be
Eek, not telling him when it happened does seem to have been an odd choice - I mean, wasn't it the perfect time to start telling him about death?
I don't think you can really admit that it happened months ago but you didn't bother telling him.
Could you tell him after you've spoken to your mum next, and make it sound like you've just found out? "You know that grandad's been very ill and in hospital, well I'm sorry to have to say but he's died now"
You just have to say why you can't go and see Grandad. (No need to say that you've been hiding it from him.) Children are good at accepting these things (although that doesn't mean that they won't think or say some things which adults might find strange or hurtful). You have to let him talk about his grandad too if he wants to.
I had to do this earlier in the year with 2 year old (albeit without the heaven bit).
He's only 4 and may surprise you by how accepting he is of this. I remember my aunt telling me about when she told my young cousin (then about 5) that his Gran had died. He just said "okay, what shall we play now?"
Just tell him. Grandad isn't here anymore but he's in heaven (or whatever you believe). At his age he'll most likely take it in his stride. My boys' grandad died when they were 5 and 3 and they weren't traumatised at all. They still talk about him occasionally but they know he's gone and they aren't freaked out by it at all.
Just answer questions truthfully. Children are very resilient, and interested, in the subject-it is adults who have the difficulty. There are some good books for children about it these days-try the library. I would avoid talking about above the clouds.
I'd wait until something relevant comes up then steer the conversation. If you sit him down for a chat he might think it's serious, scary and sad. If you casually mention it in relation to something else you're chatting about, not so bad.
I would sit him down and tell him. If you wait till he asks, he might (depending on the sort of child he is) then start wondering if you would tell him about other people having died if he doesn't ask about them often enough, and possibly fret about it. Of course he might not even think of that so I may be being overcautious.
But I think it's the sort of thing you should tell him because it has happened, not because he has asked IYSWIM?
Sit him down and tell him. You will be suprised at how well he deals with it.
When my Dad died I told DD that, "Grandad has gone somewhere where he wouldn't feel poorly anymore (he had cancer)and isn't that lovely for Grandad, but Daddy and I are sad because it means that we can't see him anymore.".
When my Mum died a couple of weeks later we told her that, "Granny was missing Grandad too much and has gone to be with him in heaven and she won't feel poorly anymore either! Do you ythink they are having a lovely time?".
When my inlaws cat died a few months ago.... well you can guess the rest - my parents now have an adopted cat.
All three times DD was amazingly accepting. She misses them - she's three - but just accepts that they have gone somewhere else.
I would echo LilRedWG's comments and suggest you just tell him. My 3-y-o DS is very clued up on death as my BIL died suddenly a couple of years ago. They are incredibly accepting.
May I suggest that you look at the Winston's Wish website www.winstonswish.org.uk? They're a fantastic charity dealing with child bereavement and you may pick up a few pointers there.
One thing that did interest me was that they recommend you don't talk about heaven as when children are that young they just can't comprehend the concept of heaven and may think it's a place you can visit or be visited from. They can then become very sad or confused as to why the deceased person doesn't visit them.
Good luck, it really won't be as big a deal as you think it may be.