Explaining the loss of a loved one to a toddler

We recently lost my husband’s Big Daddy, his grandfather, and this has been the first family death in which Walker is at an age to ask questions. Lots of questions. He knew and loved Big Daddy, he spent lots of time at his house, and now we had to explain where his Big Daddy had gone. Not an easy task, explaining loss to a 3 year old, but one thing is for sure I am extra grateful for my faith in this situation.

I did a lot of research before talking to Walker and most articles I read advocated being very blunt, for lack of a better word, with your child. Use the words death and dead. Don’t sugar coat it. Let them know they won’t see them anymore. Don’t use confusing phrases like “they are in a better place”. But I thought to myself, I truly do believe we will one day see him again and I truly do believe he is in a better place. I want my child to believe those things too.

The day after Big Daddy passed, we loaded up the car and headed to comfort Nana, my husband’s grandmother. We told Walker we were going to Nana’s house, and he immediately asked, “Big Daddy be there?” We looked at each other, both of our hearts aching, knowing we would have to find a way to explain his death. We told him that Big Daddy had gotten older and had been really sick for a really long time, and he finally got the honor of meeting Jesus in heaven. We told him we would see him there again one day.

The first words out of Walker’s mouth were “Dad, will you go to heaven with me?” Cue the tears. Like the hyperventilating kind. His innocence is something so amazing and special. Yes buddy, daddy will go to heaven with you one day.

This morning was Big Daddy’s funeral and we found ourselves once again answering lots of questions. We told Walker we would celebrate Big Daddy’s life with pictures and music, and Walker wanted to know if we would sing him happy birthday. He once again had the ability to make us smile on an otherwise sad day.

I may not have followed the advice of the “experts” but I had a happy, excited toddler who understood that Big Daddy was gone, for now, and who just wanted to celebrate his life by singing him happy birthday. And since Big Daddy is now in heaven, healthy and reborn, I think singing him happy birthday was more than an amazing idea.

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