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how to explain death to a 3 year old?

(10 Posts)
Maddy06 Tue 13-Oct-09 23:46:47

my granny died today, and i'm wondering how i'll explain the whole thing to my very bright and inquistive 3.5 year old daughter? My granny lived in my mums house, so we saw her all the time, and she was quite a big part of our lives. Every way i think of to explain it seems like it might be scary for a 3 year old. But i don't want to hide the truth from her either, and i know this is also a good opportunity to introduce her to the concept of death, before anyone she is even closer to passes away. Any advice? How has anyone else dealt with this situation?

MinkyBorage Tue 13-Oct-09 23:58:36

Sorry to hear of your loss. Have no words of wisdom as no experience yet (touches wood and thanks goodness!) but spotted this thread which might be interesting for you: -what-happens-afterwards

prettybird Wed 14-Oct-09 00:02:49

When we had a simialr situtation with ds, a friend recommmended "The Lion King" and the circle of life. Kept it from being too scary: sometimes people have lived long enough and need to move on - but that it is all part of the circle of life.

Be careful not to say "she went to sleep and didn't wake up" as that could cause other problems.

Sorry for your loss.

cremolafoam Wed 14-Oct-09 00:07:10

this website is very helpful

Maddy06 Wed 14-Oct-09 00:07:50

yes, i'd already thought that saying she'd gone to sleep and didn't wake up might make her terrified of sleeping. also think that telling her about bodies being burned or put in the ground might frighten her - i remember this bothering me when i was small. Still does a bit actually. But i know these are the sort of details she'll ask for, because that's what she's like.

Lenlen Wed 14-Oct-09 05:52:33

It never occurred to me...tnx for the link

gebethonson Wed 14-Oct-09 09:26:42

I was once told a story at a friends funeral which was about a caterpillar (strange it sounds!) but this story was read out in church for all the children especially the three year old daughter, my friend had left behind. The story goes:

Once upon a time there were a family of caterpillars and every now and then one of them would go away and they didn't come back.

This puzzled one little caterpillar so he/she decided to go and find out... the caterpillar climbed up and up all day until he/she reached the top of the tree beneath which they all lived.

He/she was so tired that he went to sleep. He/she slept for some time and when they finally woke up, he/she felt different. he/she realised that they now had wings and he/she stretched them out and began to futter around. He could see for all around and felt so light and free and happy.

He/she went to tell the others what actually does happen when they all go away, but the others could not hear him/her and they did not recognise him/her anymore. The butterfly was always around near to the family until more of them travelled the same path and they all became beautiful butterflies!

I found this very comforting and I hope you do too.

maybebaby23 Wed 14-Oct-09 11:31:03

Thank you so much for posting that story.

I lost my dad a year ago and DD was very close to him, we had lived with him for the first couple of years of her life. She knew he was poorly and when he died i told her that he was tired and his body was broken, he has gone to live in heaven, he is happy and can see/hear us even though we can't see him. She still asks how he got up to heaven even now because i can't seem to find a suitable answer blush

I am going to tell her that story, thank you.
Sorry to hear about your Granny OP I am also keen to be honest with my DD (3.7 yo) because anything about death was kept from me as a child and i feared it when i did find out

Elk Wed 14-Oct-09 12:47:21

OP, I am sorry for your loss. My grandfather died this summer so I have recently been through this with my dd's (6 and 3). I went to the local library and borrowed a couple of books from their 'Talk it over' range.

We talked about how when people get old they get very tired and then they die and that they are fine but the people who are left behind get sad and upset.

My two came with me to the funeral and were amazing, although a bit too interested in the coffin going into the ground for my liking.

Lastly, IME I concentrated so much on how my children and mother were coping that I forgot about me. I was very surprised the day after the funeral to wake in floods of tears as I hadn't felt much up until that point, so please take care of yourself too.

lechatnoir Wed 14-Oct-09 14:50:36

My grandfather & DH's gran both died this year & my DS (also 3.5) has taken our very simple, non religious explanation extremely well without any obvious distress or worry - like most things at this age as long as you explain in a matter of fact way they just take it on board, accept the facts & move on.

My grandpa died first & my DS was really fond of him so we were a bit wary of how he'd react but we told him that greatpapa was very old and he had gone into the stars. We said that although we were sad we wouldn't see him again, he was really pleased to have gone as all his friends were there (he was 101 so this was definitely true wink) and it was a lovely place were he had lots of fun. Then that evening we went outside & asked DS to see if he could see a really bright star & that was greatpapa watching us - we gave him a wave then he trotted off to bed. Occasionally he'll spot a bright star (or plane blush) & wave to greatpapa which is sweet & if he ever hears talk of death or people dying (like DH's gran more recently) he simply accepts that they too have gone to the stars. We do get more technical questions occasionally like why did he die, when will he/we die etc but all inquisitive rather than with any hint of fear or uncertainty.

No idea if this is the right or wrong way but it works for us & our DH at this young age.

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