Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Near Boston, MA
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My 3 year old DD has been asking more and more often who my father is, and where he is. My dad died when I was a child, and we have a picture of him on our family photo wall, and I refer to Grandpa every now and then, though I don't often bring him up unless she asks.
Lately, she's been asking more and more where he is, and why she can't go see him. I'm at a bit of a loss. It's not that I'm afraid to teach her about death; I just don't know how to put it in terms that she'll understand. When she sees dead bugs or things like that, we can explain to her that they aren't moving any more because they're dead, but that's a far cry from explaining a missing grandparent.
We don't want to tell her Grandpa is in heaven, primarily because we're not religious in a traditional sense, but also because telling her he's in another place will lead to questions about why she can't go there, call him on the phone, etc. I don't want to tell her he's buried in the cemetery, because I think the details about that could be scary for her. And I certainly can't tell her that death is like going to sleep, because the poor kid will never sleep again if we do that.
So...how to make this abstract concept real to a preschooler? I'm thinking about just trying to tell her that when someone dies, it means we can't see that person any more, but I get really stuck on the question, "Well, where IS he, then?" And I don't know whether it's made more or less complicated by the fact that she never knew my dad.
Can anyone suggest a way to talk to her about this? I don't want to make it unnecessarily complicated, but I'd like to be as honest and clear as possible. Thanks...