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I am having a hard time with my 4 year old and the topic of death.

It's really easy to throw out something short and spiritual that will be understood on a 4 year old level, thing is, my daughter never stops asking questions and is a pretty smart cookie.

She tells me she sees grandma in her dreams and asks her to "come back." Then she asks me if grandma can walk and talk and if grandma can comeback.

The easiest answer so far for me to give is that grandma is at her new house in heaven and she can't come back. She went there because she got sick and died and after you die that's where you go to live and you are never sick anymore.

Then she changes the subject to when Rick and I got married. She asks me if she was there at our wedding (that was 12 years before she was born!) I tell her no she wasn't born yet. She asks, but where was I? I say, you weren't born yet. She says, was I at grandma's house? I say no, you weren't born yet. She say's but where was I? I say you were in heaven waiting for your time to be born....and then she asks, "was I dead?"

I said, NO, you hadn't been born yet. So then she counters with, so can grandma come back from heaven?

ARGhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! trapped by my own simple logic.

I finally told her to shush and let mommy work.

I'd love to hear how some of you with little ones had or would have handled it.


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Boy that is a tough one. You have to be so careful what you say to little ones they are so smart.

When my oldest grandson was 4 years old his aunt, my daughter in law, lost her dad. He had had a bad heart and been sick for a very long time. My daughter went to the funeral with us and took Jared with her. When people started to go up to view the body before the casket was closed he noticed his aunt crying. When he asked why we told him that her daddy had died and she had to tell him goodbye because she wouldn't see him again.

Did that ever present a problem. I think Denis had a doctor's appointment or something. Anyway we had to leave before they did. As we were leaving my daughter told Jared to tell us goodbye. Needless to say he put the other goodbye to the front of his mind and got hysterical. He thought we were leaving forever just like his aunt's dad.

It took a very long time for him to get over that trauma. We had to stay with him and reassure him time and time again for years. When Denis died two years ago I thought about that day. I remembered Jared's terror and I knew that one on his worse nightmares had come true. He is doing well now. He is 21 and finally getting on with his life but it hasn't been easy.

So try to explain but when you do be prepared to give more than a simple answer because children hear more than you say.

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Boy can I relate to this one. My 5 year old has been asking a lot of questions lately too. He said to me one day, "Mom, Grandma is down there, right? (He was pointing at the ground.)" Then he said, "But she is up there too?" (Pointing to the sky). I had to explain to him that her body was in the ground but that her spirit and all the things that we love the most about Grandma are up in heaven. He then asked me if I thought she would get dirty being in the ground! I explained to him that she was in a nice bed but that she wouldn't care anyway because it is just her body. She lives up in heaven now. I feel sometimes like I am digging myself further and further into a story. He always asks me how she got up to heaven too. I tell him that the angels came to get her. I tell him that we can't see the angels and we can't see Grandma anymore but that she can see us. (Of course, I really have no idea about that one but I like to believe it anway.) Then there are times he tells me that he thinks Grandma is sitting right by him and rubbing his face. Oye. Kind of gives me chills but I think it comes from me telling him that Grandma is always with us and can always see us. It is a tough subject for sure!

I am, however, always happy when he talks about Mom. I always try to attempt to answer his questions because it makes me happy that he is remembering her. I still have a hard time with how he remembered seeing mom the last time. I am sure it was scary for him so I am so glad he is finally asking me questions about it and talking about it. For a long time he never wanted to discuss it.

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I'm sorry I have no real advice for you Katie. Luckily, we haven't had to deal with this with Jack. Actually seems like he's been a good luck charm, we've lost no one really close to us that he would know since he was born...as I look for wood to knock on.

I just found it amusing how our little ones and their questions, and our answers always seem to get US to paint ourselves into a corner. It's almost like they're baiting you. lol...God they are the smartest people out there I swear.

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Hi Katie,

I'm sorry you are having to go through this. That is my biggest fear with my father's health declining, dealing with my son. He'll be six in May. But, my masters degree is in psychological counseling and everything I have learned about children and death just goes back to exactly what you are telling your daughter now. You are being specific and telling her that grandma cannot come back.

The book that Ry suggested has a great reputation. I have had several friends use it and planned on getting it for Connor when the time comes. Unfortunately it is just the way that four year olds think.....they just don't get the "abstract" right now. I was just talking to my girlfriend about this the other night because my son has never had to deal with death. She was saying I just go out and get a goldfish quick so that we could deal with it that way first, but with my luck the goldfish would live forever :)

Hang in there,


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hahahahaha - OMyGosh, Katie - I know it's a serious subject, but I just have to laugh at what a smart little cookie she is! I want to squeeze her! I have no experience in this area, and I hope the book recommended or some others will help, but mostly, girlfriend, you are in for a lot of 'splainin' to do on many subjects. We paint ourselves into so many corners and the kids are quick to challenge us.

(((Katie & Kennedy)))

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I attended a family gathering this weekend and got to spend time with the 4 year-old daughter of one of my cousins. Her "nanny" was one of my favorite aunts and she passed away 5 years ago and immediatley my cousing got pregnant with this child. We were talking about "nanny" arranging things when she got to heaven when the little girl said "I've seen nanny." We said "no, she died before you were born." And she said "I know, that's when I was with her-before I was born." She spoke with such certaintly--I believed her.


ps--there's no arguing with the logic of a 4 year-old!

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She IS a smart cookie! I find myself "explaining" this stuff all the time to my daughter (or should I say making it up as I go along), who just turned five and catches me at every turn.

What about telling her that you are in Heaven twice...once before you are born (and then you LEAVE Heaven to live your life on earth), then again when you die you go BACK to Heaven forever. Once you're in Heaven a second time, you stay there to take care of all the babies waiting to be born. (just threw the baby part in b/c it sounded cute...but probably a little too complicated, huh?! Maybe just say you stay there forever :))

I'm sure she'll figure her way around that explanation too!

I agree with many of the others, it is amazing what little ones will come up and the way their minds work.

PS - Susan - your post about your little cousin gave me chills...my mom passed away when I was six months pregnant, and I was so distraught over the baby not being able to meet her. A friend told me that my baby was already hanging out with my mom - after all, that's what all that kicking is about - b/c everyone knows that babies playmates are angels. That didn't bring me much comfort then, but now it brings a little smile to my face when I think about it...

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I'm really curious to hear what you all have to say...my sister is pregnant with what would've been my mom's first grandchild. She already has pictures of Mom all over the baby's room and she's concerned about what to tell him when he gets older. I do like the idea of saying that you can only come from Heaven once (when you're born) and go back to Heaven once you've lived your life on Earth. I agree that it almost sounds like you're telling a story and digging a deeper hole but I really don't see the best way to explain it to a kid.

Another little side story...my sister was 7 months along (she's due any day now) when my mom died. I sat next to her during the funeral, and while everyone was singing one of Mom's favorite songs, the baby started kicking hard enough that we all could see it for the first time. My sister claims it's because they baby didn't like her singing, but who knows???

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Mary - when my mom was taking her last breath and I was holding her hand and telling her goodbye and that I will always love her, my baby was kicking me harder than he had in days. And this was early, early morning, a time when he was usually sleeping inside me. I will never forget that...

Also, when my mom was near the end and somewhat delusional and semi-conscious...she said with her eyes firmly closed "There he is! Isn't he a cute little bugger!" And then later, "Oh, look he's walking!" We had no idea if my son was a boy or a girl at that time...I believe she was with him.

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I don't think my 4 year old nephew understands mommy being "dead" either... we actually had hospice come over and tell the kids, along with their dad. The 4 year old kind of said I miss mommy and wanted to go play his games. Their dad also told them that he had donated mommies eyes... fyi - don't tell young kids these things. Now the 4 year old walks around saying mommy is a robot with no eyes... :-(

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OMG!! I can just imagine that too!

Yes, it's very true that you really need to be careful what you tell the little ones and really only give them bite-size information, little bits at a time that you think they can handle.

What is weird is that my daughter was with me the morning when my mom died in the hospital. She was NOT supposed to die, so when she up and DID, I totally freaked out. Screamed like I was being murdered. I think I even shocked the doctor on call as he grabbed a nurse and told her to take my daughter out of the room and take her away. I was a mess.

My daughter never talked about that day. (She was 3 then) and I never talk about it really, but over these last 14 months she has said little things about grandma and how she misses her and if grandma gets to "come back".

I think my daughter just NOW understands a glimpse of the finality of death and is JUST now grieving her grandma not being able to come "back".

This grieving thing sure stinks.

Thanks everyone for your suggestions.

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