Hubby and I had the unpleasant task of talking to C about death recently. My grandmother, who has always been a huge part of my life, passed away unexpectedly. I was very lucky to have both my grandparents living right up the street from me growing up, and to have both of them live well into their 80's (my grandfather is still alive and going strong!) Having my grandparents so close meant that they were at all of our family functions, birthdays, holidays, random dinners...you name it, they were there.
This meant that when she passed away in December, we had to figure out how to talk to our 3 year old about what happened and why he would still see grandpa but not grandma. How in the world do you talk to a 3 year old about death without giving too much or too little information? We wanted him to understand what happened, but without fear. We wanted him to know what was going on, but without sugar-coating it.
If you know anything about C's medical history, you know he knows doctors. Because he does go see doctors fairly often, we didn't want to scare him so we had to be very careful about how we phrased her being at the hospital and the part the doctors played. For a little help, I turned to one of my favorite sites when dealing with kid issues, KidsHealth. They had a section on talking to your kids about death, it went through what words to use, how to help them through any questions they had, and where to go for professional help if needed.
Since C is only 3, it was hard to find language that he understood (doctor, hospital, ouchy), without scaring him. We sat him on the couch and talked about how grandma had been in the hospital (he knew she was there), but the doctors couldn't help fix her ouchies because they were so big. The hard part was saying that we were not going to see her anymore because she died. He repeated the word a few times, then said "We no see Grandma anymore." Then I think he asked to watch TV. So, that was that for then.
He's asked a few times for Grandma when we've been to see my Grandpa, or he's been to my parents house when we were there, but we just remind him that she died and we won't be seeing her anymore. Did we talk to him correctly? Did we use the correct language? Did we scare him? I'm not sure. I do know that when he gets sick he asks if it's a really big ouchy, and it breaks my heart. I know that we did the best we could, and will be here if he needs to talk anymore.
Grandma is greatly missed everyday, and I am so happy and proud to have known her.