What to say when my son asks about dying

We unfortunately had a death in the family of a close relative. It was expected, but my almost 5 year old started asking a lot of questions about dying. Of course its always at night right before bed and I don’t want to lie to him, but i don’t want to scare him when he asks me if he’s going to die one day. sorry for the depressing topic, but does anyone have advice?

I’m so sorry for your loss and while I don’t have specific advice for you, my 7 year old recently started asking me about the same topic out of the blue. I don’t know if he saw something or watched a movie that got him thinking (lots of Disney movies mention death). I would love some advice here too. @Drkarenweiss do you have any tips for this?

I’m sorry for your loss. It can be so hard to answer your child’s questions and manage his feelings when you have so many feelings of your own.
That said, a few tips: Keep in mind that kids his age don’t understand the finality of death. Expect lots of repeat questions, and for the topic to come up repeatedly. You may also see him playing imaginative games involving death themes; don’t be alarmed, this is really normal and is part of his way of understanding what’s going on.
When he asks you a question, answer honestly, but also age-appropriately. Don’t overshare, but also don’t dodge the questions or use euphemisms. Phrases like “Grandma’s resting” or “he’s in heaven” can be really confusing for kids. You can say something like, “Uncle Joe died, and that means that his body stopped working. He can’t run or play or sleep anymore.” Consider memorializing your relative in some way with him. Creating a memory book, telling stories, or writing a story together about an experience they shared can help him process the loss.
In terms of other, more general questions about death: Same thing- answer honestly, but age-appropriately. “Most people die when they’re very old. We take good care of ourselves, and we’re hopefully going to live for a very long time.”
If you find that this is only happening before bedtime, carve out some time during the day to deal with this proactively. There’s a good Daniel Tiger episode about death (search for the one with the dead fish), and even though the death is of a pet, the concepts are the same. You can also read a kids’ book about death together during the day.
Make sure to let him know that whatever he’s feeling is OK, and that he can talk to you about all of it. This might be tough for you, depending on how you are doing with your own grief. The book The Invisible String is also great for helping communicate the idea that he can still feel connected to the relative who died.
Hope this helps!

2 Likes

I remember watching the sesame street episode on dying a very long time ago-maybe it can be helpful to you. so sorry for your loss

1 Like

thank you so much for your response. Im going to look into those books and i really like your tips on how to approach the subject.

1 Like

i really love this. thank you :heart:

very helpful tips for a difficult topic