Monday, March 18, 2013

2.5 year old asking about grandfather's death

I wonder could you give me a little advice? My Dad passed away 3 weeks ago, he was a huge part of my daughter’s life, she's 2 1/2. She asks where he is and I hold it together to explain, Grandad is gone to live with Nana in Heaven. My mam passed away before my daughter was born and she knows from Mams picture who she is etc. The thing is, she keeps asking my brother - What happened to Grandad? My poor brother can't answer it's like it hits him with a ton of bricks when she asks, I'm thinking she's not happy with my explanation and wants another? I've told her that grandad missed nana so went to live in heaven with her and that he's ok and not sick anymore.

I just wondered if you have any advice with this. I've asked her does she miss grandad and she said yes and I said I miss him to and that's ok etc. Just don't know if I'm missing something or should be saying something else.

I understand your very busy so no problem if you can't reply but if possible any advice would be much appreciated.

I’m so glad you wrote and would love to try to help.
I am so sorry for your loss. Dealing with a death in the family as well as trying to deal with its effects on our children is a difficult balance. I hope you are finding the time to grieve yourself and find the connection you need. It is totally natural for your daughter to be questioning things regarding the death of your father. Children have a stronger sense of the eternalness of spirit so the concept of him suddenly being gone will stir up a lot of questions for her. There is also always the issue of a child facing the fact that since one person is suddenly gone, it could happen to anyone.
When events happen that we have to answer our children’s questions there and then we often find that we don’t really know what we think ourselves, and unfortunately our children pick up on our own lack of conviction. Therefore, I would suggest taking some time to tap into your deepest version of yourself and getting a sense of what you believe deep down. Personally, as I was just telling a friend of mine today in fact, I find that death breaks down walls, and in thinking of the person who has passed we can get a sense of them, reassuring us that they are eternal beings, always around. When we’ve tapped into our own eternal states, we feel stronger about our belief in them and therefore when we speak of it, our children hear it clearer.
However, I think you’ve answered her question beautifully, clearly and well. It will probably delve into more complicated conversations as she gets older and I always find death an interesting way to start talking about spiritual matters to small children. For instance, “their body stopped working so they left it behind” creates the idea that we are more than our bodies. There are also some wonderful children’s books out there that give it in simple, natural terms, which can offer a sense of what the life cycle is to a small child, without causing them concern that any of their loved ones are next.
As far as your brother is concerned, I would suggest to your daughter that she asks someone else. It’s alright to ask her to not talk about it to him as he is hurting because he misses Grandad so much. Tell her he needs her help to feel better, ask if she can play with him and help him in this time. Is there anyone else she can talk to, maybe his partner, or a cousin? If not, then keep it simple, you do well to point out you still miss him, as his body isn’t around to see, but you know he is still around, watching over you, giving you love.
I had a woman write in with a similar question once and I mentioned two things which I think she found helpful in the transition, for it is a transition and soon your daughter’s life will resume to the regular day to day, although always slightly different than it was before.
One point was to offer a sense of ritual to the event for your daughter. Something that ties it all together. A funeral of course is ritual enough, but not suitable for a child to really absorb, but a ritual in the sense of drawing a picture for her grandfather and burying it (which my daughter did for a friend of hers when she passed away), planting seeds or a tree for him, creating something, or even doing small things like writing things to him/drawing things for him in the sand and letting the waves take them to him (which a friend on the SAP page does for her daughter. She finds it very healing) I think this sense of ritual creates a bridge for our children, from the seen to the unseen. SO be creative and find a way of tying it all together.
Another thing to create a bridge is to take part in something life giving. Plant a garden, visit a farm with baby animals, go for a nature walk and see the offerings of spring, start a new activity, Take part in something life giving and enjoy it together.
Often, as we grieve it is natural to hold ourselves back, it’s to protect ourselves from hurt and hold us in a place of healing. But sometimes our children can be part of the process too. She may be wanting to understand more of what’s happening so she can meet you there, to be part of your process. You don’t want her oblivious to the issue, but meet her half way. Death is part of life, we miss those who go before us, but they are always around in love. Take part in the love, play, explore and be in the moment with your daughter. She will soon shift focus from the issue, only taking more part in the missing, and you will heal with the joy you have in the moment with her.
I hope this helps a bit. Please let me know if I can help in any other way or get into further detail.
Be well and thrive.

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