“Is She With Granny/Papa?” – What Do I Tell My Child?Kenny Scott | Dec 23, 2016 | Child bereavement
Are you concerned about how to respond when your child asks you about the afterlife?
If you’ve suffered a recent loss in your family, it can be a painful time for all involved, and you may also have the added worry of how your child (or children) will cope with the loss of a loved one.
The good news is that it’s perfectly normal for them to be curious about death, and some may ask lots of questions about what death really means, what happens at the funeral, and what will happen to the loved one afterwards.
Some of these questions can include: “Is she with Granny/Papa?” or “Is Uncle Steve looking after him?”
Not everyone knows how to answer these questions, so if you’re feeling uncertain, I’m going to use my experience as a child bereavement counsellor to provide some guidance below.
Why is my child asking me about passed relatives?
Children tend to have a natural sense of curiosity, especially when it comes to the Great Unknown. Especially if your child is very young, it’s likely they’re just trying to make sense of it all.
However, as children grow older, some also find a sense of comfort in thinking that a loved one is with other family members or friends who have passed away – it’s a nice idea to think that they’re not lonely, and they’re all having a good time together somewhere off in the distance.
In fact, most children I’ve personally worked with have believed that their loved one is still watching over them from somewhere above, and this gives them some comfort – this is perfectly okay, although their beliefs will often change as time goes on.
What should I tell them about the afterlife?
There’s no right or wrong answer here. Your answer may depend on your faith, and you may want to say something along the lines of: “Well, some people believe that…” or “Well, our religion says…”
If you don’t believe in the afterlife, but still want to give some comfort to your child, there’s nothing wrong with being honest and telling them you’re simply not sure, but you’d like to think that there’s something more. You could even have a talk about different beliefs around the world.
In either case, try asking them what they believe – or hope – might happen after death; maybe they could even draw a picture to show you.
What if their beliefs are different from mine?
One thing I would say here is to avoid imposing your beliefs if they happen to be different to those of your child; they may be happy with their own thoughts and feelings about what happens after death for the time being.
As I said above, children often draw comfort from the idea that their loved one is watching over them, but their beliefs will develop and change over time, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I hope the above advice has been helpful when figuring out how to answer your child’s questions about the afterlife, and in particular, whether a recently deceased loved one is with other relatives.
Remember, it’s fine to be honest and open with your child about your beliefs or hopes, but also ask them what they believe themselves about the afterlife – and allow them to believe their own version if it brings them comfort.
If you’re looking for ideas for what to do with your loved one’s ashes, you’re welcome to read our ebook: ‘6 Things You Can Do With Your Loved One’s Ashes’.