If my kids ask me a question, I will answer them truthfully. I’ll use language appropriate to their understanding, but my goal is to have them understand the world around them the best they can.
My grandmother died 2 years ago. My son was only 3 at the time, but we told him exactly what was happening, and he understood in the way a 3 year old can.
There’s a picture of my grandparents on our stairs, and if you ask him where Nan is, he would say “Her is dead. Her had a headache.”
You could ask him what death meant, and he understood she was gone and not coming back.
We don’t live near where my grandmother is buried, so today was the first time my son, now 5, has visited her memorial site since she passed away.
I think he was expecting to see her body. While he knew she had died, he didn’t really understand what happened next. He talked about trying to wake her up, and maybe bringing her home. I told him as best I could that death was permanent, but he was still confused when he saw her memorial plaque.
He didn’t know how she fit, and he banged at the wall trying to find a way to open the locks and actually see her. I told him that our bodies turn to dust when we die and that her ashes were behind the plaque, her body was gone.
His face went long, and then he crushed me.
“I just want to get the dust out and build Nan again,” he sighed.
He got it, and in that uber honest way only young kids can express themselves without holding anything back, he summed up everything in my heart.
“We can’t do that, Zacharie,” I tried to reassure. “She’s gone.”
“I miss her,” he whispered.