How do you explain death to a child?

So my grandma that me and my son live with is currently passing away soon, she’s going to be put on hospice as we just take care of her until she takes her last breath. My son turned 4 in Oct and I’m just wondering if I should explain to him that his great grandmother is dying. Hes not new to the word die, we use it for like when his tablet dies, we were walking outside oncea while ago and we seen a deceased animal outside and he asked if it died I kind of freaked out and I just said no its sleeping, just because i didnt know if that was appropriatefor his age to talk about that. So I’m just wondering if I should go ahead and let him know that’s his gg is sick and dying so its not such a shock when it does happen and how i should explain it to him? Thank you!


Absolutely be upfront with your child as they are comfortable with. It’s better to have them knowledgeable of what’s occuring at each step than just one day G-grandma is gone and not coming back. From there follow their lead of comfort level. If they want to be in the room and say good bye then allow them if not give them a safe space removed from the situation.

1 Like

My daughter (shes 4) knows about death, we had a lot of family deaths in the past few years (mostly older animals but also relatives on her dad’s side) be upfront, they’ll figure it out eventually anyways.

My son noticed when my cat was absent. I am not specifically religious, but I told him that Tibbs had passed away and wasn’t coming back but that he’d be seen from the stars. Every night for a good while we would go out and he’d point out the brightest star to say goodnight to Tibbs.

Recently, like within the past half a year, his paternal step-grandfather passed away from old age and cancer. He took it pretty well from what I can tell (I’m not involved with his fathers side of the family anymore). He talks to me about him sometimes and I just listen, we hug. He misses him and has taken me outside to find “his” star the same way we did for my cat.

I was up front with my son. We lost my grandpa when he was younger and I didn’t want to lie to him so I was upfront about death and heaven (if u believe) he understands everyone will pass at some point but will be Watchung out for him from above. It’s part of life better to teach early so they can accept it in my opinion. Since then he has unfortunately witness multiple deaths and funerals he just understands it and knows its OK to be sad about it and learning how to properly grieve

It’s never too early to explain death and dying. They don’t need every single gory detail. But the whole “it’s sleeping” thing is just so wrong. This year My daughter has unfortunately watched our 2 dogs pass away, her fish and her estranged father who never wanted to meet her. I felt it was important she went to his funeral, I said it was someone who was important and she should be there and that they had died and everyone would be sad and it was a time for everyone to be together, be sad together and remember that person together. So definitely be honest but they don’t need every detail.

1 Like

My grandsons were 4 and 6 when there aunt at age 26 passed away in her sleep unexpectedly, we sat with them and told them how aunt Krissy loved them very much , but she was called to heaven and she went to live with God, and that maybe she was sick and nobody knew. We answered their questions the best we could , they were involved in picking her grave stone and all , every month we go and put new stuff on it. It’s been just over 2 years

1 Like

Talk to the hospice group some have support groups for this or even kids days with activities for children who have or are going thru loss.

*I’m southern, religious amd a little “different”

My kids know that their aunts went to heaven, and that most people are older when they die.
They also look for cardinals and they know that means someone in heaven is thinking of them. There is a cardinal we see weekly waiting for the bus :heart:
That being said explaining younger people to them was harder for me to do. My friend passed not to long ago and that was a hard one. I am a nurse as well and explained it to them 5 and 7 at the time best I could. My oldest said "life if not fair and his friends still deserved their mommy :pensive: "


Death is as natural as any other part of life. Be honest, be real. You can explain it on his level. He will be better off for it in the end.

Depends are you religious? If so you can do the whole go to heaven thing.

I’ve only ever told my kids sometimes people get sick and can’t make it but think they was that young tho

There is a really good episode of Bluey that talks about Death, be honest, if you are religious go that route.
I’m do sorry you and your family are going through this sending hugs

My daughter was 4 as well when her great grandma passed away and we where part of group watching over her we spent 40% of our time for a month with her and we explained many times that she’s passing away and this is the end. It was sad but she was able to greave with us and is okay now. She’s 7.5 and I think that was easier then trying to explain why gg is gone and why we don’t go to the nursing home anymore to see her.

1 Like

She was sick and went to the sky. So anytime he wants to talk to her, he can do so. Tell him she’s with the sun and stars

Tell him the truth. Be open and honest

When I was that age my mom used the movie the lion king to explain death to me in a way I would understand at that age.

Almost all hospice and palliative programs have religious and non religious books and pamphlets to help explain death to youth

1 Like