Sydney & Denny

Sydney & Denny
September at the Park

Thursday, December 9, 2010

How to explain death to a 5 year old.

She seems to be very curious.
Tomorrow my wife and I are going to travel to Ohio in order to attend a funeral for her aunt. We all know that funerals basically suck. No one likes having to attend a funeral, especially when you were close with the person who has passed. However what is making this particular passing hard is trying to explain it to my little girl. As I have mentioned many times in my blog, Sydney is only 5. I really think it's too soon to try and explain to her what death means. But, I also don't really like the idea of being less than honest with her. We have a wall that has pictures of my two grandmothers and one of Stacy's grandmothers. All three of them have passed, and all passed since Sydney was born. She was too young to really remember any of them. However, she does have some memories of two of them. And, all three pictures are of her sitting on the laps of our grandmothers. She sees the pictures every single day, and often asks about the ladies she sees. I've tried really hard to put it in terms that she can understand, but it's really hard. I told her that all of them have died, and of course I got "What does 'died' mean?" I basically explained as "they got old and sick and went to heaven to rest." I thought at the moment that it was the best way to go about explaining it. She asked me if I was sad when it happened. I was dumbfounded that my five year old was asking such a grown-up question. I had to explain to her that when each lady passed it made Daddy so sad that he cried. Well, she doesn't see her Daddy cry so of course it brought up another question that floored me. "Daddy will you be sad when I die?"
I'm pretty sure she didn't get the fact that Daddy is going to get older and die someday as well. I think she thinks Daddy is Superman, and well she should. That's how a little girl is supposed to see her Daddy. Well, I had to tell her that first of all, she isn't going to die. She's not allowed to. And, I had to tell her that if something ever happened to her and she died, Daddy would be more than just sad. I tried to tell her that if anything ever happened to her, it would probably be the end of her Daddy as well. I just don't know how to explain the whole concept to her at this point. I think this is one of those times where I'm lost as a parent.
Earlier today I explained to her that she wouldn't be going to school tomorrow and was staying with my parents for the day. She asked me why and I blurted out that Mommy and Daddy had to go to a funeral. I'm sure you can guess what her next question was. I told her that it was "a ceremony people have when someone dies." It was the best I could come up with at the moment.
Now I feel horrible.
I've been thinking about it, and I feel like I've swung and missed as a father in this matter. I feel horrible that I've even introduced her to this subject. I think five is too young to have to know anything about death. I wish I had never even told her what dieing meant. I want so bad to shield her from hurt and anything bad, even though I know I won't be able to forever. I just wish I had waited until she was a little older. But, what's the right age for this subject? I would hate for something to happen to Stacy or I and her(and her brother) have to learn the hard way. Does anyone have any ideas on how to handle this? Really, if you have any ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them because I feel as though I have totally failed as a parent with this one.
A missed paragraph.
Completely changing the subject now. In my last post an entire paragraph was cut off for some reason. This is the second or third time it has happened, and I'm not sure why. I'm not sure if it's something I have done, or something that has occurred due to Blogger, but I really apologize. I think I'm going to start taking safeguards to prevent it from happening. That might me a good idea huh? Maybe I should actually pay attention to things that I attaching my name to!
Anyways, thanks for reading and I hope you don't have to deal with what I have had to. Hope you have a great day.       


  1. Listen, I think that you did a wonderful job. That's a tough one and I don't know if there is a right answer. I was going to bring up Heaven but you beat me to the punch. My Johnny talks alot about death and I can't stand it. I struggle though all of his questions and then later on, it comes to me how I could have answered it better.
    Really, you did a good job.

  2. I've been wanting to post something like this since our dog died a couple weeks ago. My five year old was taking the things we said very literal. She knows of Heaven. She knows that's where God and Jesus are. She also knows people can "go be with Jesus". But I don't think she connected you had to die first. So when we said the dog went to heaven, it was in hopes to comfort them. So she would ask if he's still in the ground (because like I said, she took it literal and thought his whole body would go to Heaven). We've explained it best we thought we could. This was her first experience with death. But I don't think there is no "right age" for a child to be told. They'll ask when they are.

    Good job, Dad.

  3. You're beating yourself up over this. Both of the previous posters are on the right track and I don't think that 5 is too young. My kids are 8 and 6 and have an elementary grasp of death already. THey know my 93 yo grandmother is in the hospital and could die. I don't think you can or should shield that from them.

    "When people die they go away forever to be in heaven with God and Jesus and when we die we get to see them again."

    Chances are that will satisfy her and if not then you'll know what to do.

  4. Ouch! That is a tough subject to tackle fo sho. I hope I don't have to deal with it anytime soon!!

  5. Thank you everyone for your comments. It makes me feel better that people don't think I've completely messed up my poor little girl with how I've tried to handle this tough topic. Thanks again.

  6. Once again, a little late to the game, but Mark, Eric, and ChopperPapa were right on.

    There is no perfect age to learn about death. If She was 12 and it was her first personal experience with death, it would hurt, and she would have questions.

    You did the right thing. You gave her a "taste" and from there, you let her curiosity direct you. If she has questions, you answer them.. Honestly (and of course, age appropriately) - if she does not ask more, then you satisfied her need for information at that moment.

    It's funny - you are talking about death with your five year old, my 15 and 13 year old boys are asking me questions about marijuana. I tell them the truth - answer their questions and hope I too did the right thing!

    I really enjoy your blog!

  7. P.S.

    Have you tried using Windows Live Writer?

    It's a free program you can download - You import your blogger settings and the screen becomes a "word processor" shaped like your blog! It's so easy to enhance your text, place and manipulate photos, add videos, and preview the post before you send it.

    You can even save a "draft" copy of a post then come back later to finish it up!

    I like using it so much better than the blogger page... Give it a try for a few posts!


    (oh, I do not think there is an Apple version... PC only (last time I looked)).