Explaining death

My mom is dying of cancer and I just don't know how to address the subject with my 3 and 4.5 year old boys.  Right now they know that she is really sick, but that is it.  If anyone has any suggestions on how to handle this, I would really appreciate hearing them.  Thanks so much.

Re: Explaining death

  • My father passed away from Cancer when my DS was 10 months so we didn't have to deal with it at the time... but now we do talk about it and he understands dying. 

    Maybe this will help and maybe not since this is after the fact but perhaps talking about other family who has passed is a good way to help them understand. 

    Anyways... with DS he started to ask about his grandpa since he saw pictures and I didn't want him to not know who my dad was so we would talk about him.  When he started asking I told him that Grandpa Ken wasn't with us anymore, the more he would ask about why I would say that he got really sick and that sometimes when someone is really really sick they die... I know that sounds like a lot for a 3 year old but I didn't want to sugar coat it or make it confusing with works like passed away.  We believe that my fathers soul is still with us and actually we have had times when DS has brought that up randomly so we do talk about Grandpa being with us or being around to watch over us etc. 

    for your situation perhaps to ease into the discussion of death, it would be best to relate it to something like a fish or pet or other relative who has passed away... i tell my son that sometimes people or pets just get really old and it's time for them to go.  Or they can get really sick, but not like when you get a cold... that kind of thing... and then from there maybe ease into how your mother is very sick and she may not be with us any longer.

     Losing a parent is truly life changing.... I am so sorry you have to experience this. It's heartbreaking trying to explain it to your children and I hope that you are able to get through this... stay strong but what i learned is to allow yourself time to cry and feel what your feeling...


    BabyFruit Ticker Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker
  • I am so so sorry to hear this news. I lost my mom to cancer 17 years ago and just reading your post brings tears to my eyes. I hope you and your mom are spending some quality moments together.

    My Dad died in 2011 after a long battle with alzhiemer's. I didn't know how to handle it with DS and I ended up asking our pedi when I was at a visit with DD. Her advice was to be straight and not linger on it. Not out of disrespect but state the truth and let them have time to digest it. She also said, if we had a religious belief (which we do) to introduce that as well. So we told DS that Pop had finished his time on earth and God needed him in heaven. He asked when he would come back and it's hard to explain that Pop won't be coming back but thats what we told him.

    I recall another post some months ago asked a similar question and the mom told her kids that God needed another super hero to help him and i thought that was touching and on a child's level to help them understand.

    Even until last week, DS brings up his Pop now and then. Sometimes it's happy memories...Pop's favorite was apple pie or remember when we went to the phillies game with Pop. Other times he seems to get sad about him not being around. Create communication for good memories for your kids. My mom's death was so devistating to my family, I felt like it was too painful for any of us to talk about her and that was a disservice to us all. Now we talk about Pop and Grandmom together in heaven and although DS has no idea what that means, it's a comfort to tell stories, show pictures and have him know who they were.

    I wish you and your family well.

    Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers

    Lilypie Second Birthday tickers

  • Im sorry to hear about your mom.  I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately because DD is starting to ask questions about lost family members and stuff. Also my dad is ill, and DD and dad are very close as dad and I are.  Anyway I tell her that when people die they have to leave earth to be in heaven with God. Im not sure she 100% understands but im working on it, she is afterall only 4.  I agree with the previous poster, I think being as straight as possible is the best way.
  • I am so sorry you have to deal with this. 

    My dd was a obsessed with death. We don't know where it came from but we started talking about it when she was about 2 1/2. We also chose not to sugar coat it and said sometimes people get very sick and die. We are not religious and so instead of heaven we said that even when people die, and their body goes back to earth, they live on in our hearts. 


    This did lead to a time where she was very nervous about us dying. We said that parents do die, but only when we are very old and she is old enough to take care of herself, and has kids of her own to look after, That our job is to take care of her now and we are not going anywhere. 

    image AlternaTickers - Cool, free Web tickers 

  • I'm sorry you're in this situation.

    When my late MIL was sick and dying, we explained that she was sick but we didn't have a timetable for her eventual passing, so we never went there. 

  • So, so sorry about your Mom. It will be a year in 2 weeks that I lost my Dad. My son didn't ask many questions, being only 2 and wasn't very aware that Grandpa was sick, but we do talk about Grandpa and Heaven alot. I clearly was a mess and even though I tried my best to keep my tears in check wihile DS was around he did see me cry. He would ask why I was sad and I would tell him that Mommy missed Grandpa, I didn't want to down play the loss too much. We also lost a family pet this past year and we spoke about our dog going to Heaven with God and Grandpa. We are not overly religious people but do believe that is where Grandpa is and what an amazing place it is. When playing out on the swings we talk about swinging up to Heaven which is nice for me to hear my son spontanously mention heaven and my Dad. I am sure anyway you handle it will be just right for you and your children. Lots of love and strength sent your way during this hard time.

  • I'm so sorry about your Mom.

     My Dad is dying of cancer right now too.   We lost our cat at the end of the summer.   Mine are 17 months apart.  The 6 yr old had a really hard time with it and a lot of questions.  The 4 yr old was much easier in that he wasn't thinking too deeply about things.  I kinda suspect the same thing when my Dad passes - age matters.

     I told them that Mommy is sad because her Daddy is dying and I'm going to miss him when we can't visit him anymore.  I told them that he has cancer.  I didn't want to use the term "sick" for fear of them not understanding that people get sick all the time and it's not life threatening.

     I told them that Mommy will be crying a lot and that it's all going to be OK.  I've told them that it's OK if they cry.  The 6 yr old cried a LOT over the course of a week when we lost the cat but says he doesn't think he'll cry as much when Grandpa finally dies because he doesn't see him as much as he sees the cat and really doesn't know him that well.

     We will weather it.  My bigger concern is how they are going to handle seeing me process my own grief.  It's so hard to try to support them when you're struggling with something so difficult for you on such a deep and personal level.

     Our approach will be to be honest, encourage discussion of emotions, explain the emotions they are seeing on me and then thank God that there's a time each night after they go to bed that I can deal with my own crap without them having to witness all of it.

     I wish you the best on your journey and I hope that your mother has as peaceful a passing as possible. 

    Our IF journey: 1 m/c, 1 IVF with only 3 eggs retrieved yielding Dylan and a lost twin, 1 shocker unmedicated BFP resulting in Jace, 3 more unmedicated pregnancies ending in more losses.
    Total score: 6 pregnancies, 5 losses, 2 amazing blessings that I'm thankful for every single day.
  • My grandma died right after my wedding this past July... DD is 4. She loved to visit her great grandma and we were very close. We lived 2 and a half hours away from her, but went to visit at least once a month

    It was very hard for me to deal with on my own (especially adding in my extra hormones thanks to being pregnant). For a while I chose to ignore this and not tell DD about it. She did not attend the funeral. Then DD started asking when we were going to see great grandma again, so I had to tell her.

    I told her that great grandma was very very old. DD is still figuring out that her grandma is my mom and such, so I used that to show how old she was, by going through the generations with her. Great grandma was also very sick, and her body couldn't keep working. I told her that we buried great grandma's body in the ground (becasue she was upset that she couldn't see her one more time). I told her that great grandma's heart became an angel, so now she flies in the clouds and stars and can watch over us all the time.

    I think DD liked this explanation, bc she hasn't asked many more questions about death. I also caught her one day playing outside 'showing' great grandma how fast she can run and what she was playing with, while she was looking at the clouds in the sky.


    I am very sorry to hear that you're losing your mom, but just remember that it measn you (and your boys) are gaining an angel. It took me a while, and a clot of tears, to figure out how to tell DD, but I feel comfortable with how I explained it to her, and love that she has taken comfort in having an angel.

    CafeMom TickersCafeMom Tickers

    Image and video hosting by TinyPic
  • I am so sorry you're going through this :(

    We recently had to address death in our house this past fall and ever since it has been an open discussion... I wrote about it twice on my blog below. 


    Mama to Jack & Jude.


  • I am so sorry for what you are going through.  My one rule is to never use the word sleep when talking about death.  When our dog was sick and we knew he was going to be put down, we told the kids that he was very sick and that sometimes, when you get really sick, your body just can't work anymore here and that it needs to go to heaven so that its not in pain anymore.  We talked more about heaven and how the dog was watching over us and how he was no longer in pain and that he was happy and playing with other dogs.  I would use the same idea in regard to your mom - that is in a lot of pain and needs to go to heaven so she won't be in pain anymore.  Make sure to tell them that she will never forget them, that she will always live on in their hearts and minds.  Follow their lead for the most part.  We put the dog down 2 years ago when the girls were almost 3 and 4 1/2 and they still ask a lot of questions about death.  My younger DD just asked me the other day how the bones get into the box (we had just driven past a cementary and that is what she was asking about).  She asked a lot if our dog will come back and we always explain that once you go to heaven you can't come back but that you can watch over the people you love.  We made a photo book of pictures of our dog from the time he was a puppy until the last picture we took of him the morning we put down and they look at it all the time.
    Jenni Mom to DD#1 - 6-16-06 DD#2 - 3-13-08 
  • I'm so sorry you are going through this. It's so very hard.  I just lost my mom who was also my best friend to cancer this past June. She was diagnosed with recurrent esophageal cancer in sept and passed away in June.  We made sure to spend a lot of time with her and I am so thankful we had that time.  I debated about telling my kids so directly up until the last week or so of her life. But was literally bed ridden with no hair and 90 pounds if that and looked like she was 90 when in fact she was 62.  I really wanted to keep that image from my kids because I wanted them remember happier times. However, my son( almost 4 at the time) busted in to her room one day while I sat bedside holding her hand.  He said " daddy and I are going to get bagels..... I don't think gran will want one. "!  It instantly lightened the mood and it didn't phase him in the least how she looked.  She was just his favorite gran always.  Then I decided to tell him.  I told him that gran was very sick ( as he knew) and that she was going to be leaving us soon. God was the only person that can make her better now and he needed her up in heaven. He started crying and asked what heaven was. I said it was a magical place that had angels and there are fun things for gran to do there.   I told him that gran would always be there from now on and we won't be able to see her but we can talk to her whenever we want.  He proceeded to walk in to my moms room and said " gran you are going to heaven to ride ponies and see all the butterflies ( which I did not mention at all!). And he said bye bye see you later!  I was horrified that he said that to her but she cracked a smile!  I'm so glad I decided to let my kids be around her and also that I told them ( mainly my 4 yr old bc my younger one didn't fully understand but now she does) straight up what was happening. 

    Now they see blue sky and they wave and say hi to her from time to time.  I also let them bury something of theirs with her and told them it was to comfort her on her trip to heaven. They gave her their lovies (duplicates).


    And btw ever since she passed we see butterflies everywhere! 

     I hope you get to spend time and find comfort in that and memories.  It was the hardest time of my life and she is missed dearly but she lives in our memories and I feel her presence everyday.  

    Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers Lilypie Third Birthday tickers Lilypie Pregnancy tickers
  • Thank you all for taking the time to help me figure this out.  My mom passed away on Monday and we told the boys the next day.  They knew that she had been sick so we explained that she had a really bad germ that was called Cancer.  Because she had the bad germ and was pretty old, she died and went to heaven.  They listened carefully and the four year old said "Your mother died?  That's a shame!"  and went off to play.  I think I had convinced myself that the conversation would be the toughest of my life, but in fact, it was probably the simplest!  Since then, we have looked at lots of pictures, talked about her and heaven and explained that she will forever be in our hearts.  
  • image srashell:
    Thank you all for taking the time to help me figure this out.  My mom passed away on Monday and we told the boys the next day.  They knew that she had been sick so we explained that she had a really bad germ that was called Cancer.  Because she had the bad germ and was pretty old, she died and went to heaven.  They listened carefully and the four year old said "Your mother died?  That's a shame!"  and went off to play.  I think I had convinced myself that the conversation would be the toughest of my life, but in fact, it was probably the simplest!  Since then, we have looked at lots of pictures, talked about her and heaven and explained that she will forever be in our hearts.  


    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.  

    Lilypie Fifth Birthday tickers Lilypie Third Birthday tickers Lilypie Pregnancy tickers
  • My father died before DS was born. I always showed him pictures and talked about Grandpa Smitty!
    Our friends Grandfather passed away in January. We called him grandpa and my son called him Poppy. Like our own family. I was really nervous about explaining to him what happened. Grandpa had been sick for a while, in the hospital, so DS knew he was sick. A day or 2 after he passed we were leaving the family and he said to me "mommy where is poppy?!"
    I said "you know how mommy talks about grandpa Smitty and that he's in heaven?! Well poppy is with him, in heaven" he asked where heaven was and I said near the stars, when we see the stars at night that's where they are. Then he asked me if Poppy was still sick and I said no he's not sick anymore.
    I'm not really sure if he really grasps is but that was the best way for us to explain it to him.
    Hoping you can figure out a way to explain it that suits your family. Thinking of you during this difficult time!
    Lilypie Fourth Birthday tickers
  • Ds is 3.5 and his grandma has just gone into hospic for Ovarian cancer.  We have been very up front with him on most of it.  He knows his grandma has cancer but we described it as little bad guys who are inside her and she is battling these bad guys the doctors have given her medicine to fight the bad guys but it's not strong enough and the medicine is loosing.  The medicine also made her loose her hair.  We have had to be more careful with what we tell him as his dad has brain caner and lost hair and had surgery that left him with metal in his head.  We found if we tried not to talk to him he came up with things he though a dinasour bit dad on the head and that it left the staples in his head. 

    He seems ok with cancer being a little bad guy that is inside attacking things, we didn't want him to think everyone looses the battle but that they might since we don't know.

    We also have spent a long time talking about loveing the people before they go and remembering the good things after they are gone.  He did really well at a funeral we went to for a family friend this last weekend

    Me DOR amh .64 ng/mL  
    DH Brain Cancer
    BFP #1 12/11/08 DS born 8/23/09
    BFP#2 10/13/11 DC 11/4/11
    BFP#3 12/6/13 Lost 12/29/13
    Told IVF is the only option and have not found a clinic that will take me.

This discussion has been closed.
Choose Another Board
Search Boards