Talking about death

We have been trying to prepare Ane (Tad is just too young) for the funeral. We have already told her about her great-grandma’s death. Unbeknownst to me, the Webmaster talked to her before Great-Grandma passed away, but I did talk to her about it once it had happened.

I brought out a photo album that had pictures of Ane as a baby and found one with Great-Grandma holding her. “Do you know who that is?” I asked.

“That’s baby Ane, with Great-Grandma,” she said.

I nodded. “Great-Grandma was very sick, sweetie, and she died today. She has gone to heaven.”

Ane’s face crumpled. “But I want her to stay here.”

I hugged her. “But Ane, she had lived a very long time and was sick. She went to heaven to be with Jesus, and now she is all better.”

That satisfied her to know that Great-Grandma was somewhere, but the whole thing has clearly been on her mind over the last few days. Here are some conversational snippets that we have had:

(Sunday morning, on the way to church)
Ane: “Mommy, is heaven up there?” (points to the sky)

Me: “I’m not exactly sure, sweetie. Most people think so.”

Ane: “Oh. I’ll just ask Jesus, then. He’s my friend, Mommy, remember?”

Me: “Yes, He is.”

Ane: “Just like in the song!”

Me: “Which song?”

Ane: “The Cubbies song, Mommy.” (The Awana Cubbies song that they sing every week ends with the line “For Jesus is a friend to us, He loves each girl and boy.” Ane then sang this line from the song, then paused.) “Mommy, I’m the girl.”


(Monday, in the car)
Ane: “Mommy, when people go to the hospital, are they sick?”

Me: “Yes, sometimes. When Tad went to the hospital, he was hurt, not sick.”

Ane: “Do people die at the hospital?”

Me: “Yes, they do. Most times the doctors can fix them, but sometimes they can’t, and people do die there.”

Ane: “But Tad didn’t die.”

Me: “No, honey, he broke his arm. It needed fixing, but he wasn’t sick. He wasn’t going to die.”

Ane: “But Great-Grandma was sick.”

Me: “Yes, she was. But she has gone to heaven now, and she’s all better.”

Ane: “When are we going to heaven, Mommy?”

Me: “When Jesus decides it’s time for us to be there. I don’t know when that will be.”

Ane: “Oh, okay.”


So, how have I done? There is no easy way to handle talking to a not-quite-four-year-old about death and dying. I think she will keep asking questions for a long while, especially after the funeral. I’ve already given her preschool teachers the heads-up as to what happened, so they don’t think she’s just spotaneously developed a morbid streak or start questioning what we let her watch on TV. But attending a funeral at this age presents a whole lot of issues, which I’ll write on tomorrow.

One Response to “Talking about death”

  1. linda
    November 14th, 2007 17:22

    So beautiful to know that Ane truly does know that Great Grandma is with Jesus and is well.
    Mom (Joan) went to Heaven 5 days before Cassondra’s 4th b/d…Mom had told Cassondra that she would go to Heaven to be with Jesus…so, that is how my comfort came to be…when Cassondra was told, she hugged me and told me that I didn’t have to cry because Grandma was with Jesus and they were both all around us…
    hugs to all…