How does a parent explain death and dying to a small child?

Specialties Psychiatric


two days ago, my seven year old grandson lost his best friend. they were such good friends, and my daughter and son-in-law are at a loss in how to explain death, especially death of another child who happens to be their son's best friend. can any of you reading this offer any suggestions for me to pass on to my daughter and son-in-law for them to share with their seven year old son? the little boy - also seven - was buried today. my daughter didn't know if she should take her son to the funeral or not, so she did not. the school psychologist talked to the children about this little boy's death, and let them vent, but my grandson has been crying for the past two days wondering why his little friend had to die. my daughter cried when explaining to him that his best friend had died, and she was so choked up herself that she thinks her crying may have added to her son's grieving process. today, she and i decided that my grandson would write a letter to his best friend, put it inside of a balloon, and let that balloon float towards heaven as he says "see ya" to his special little friend. she wants to know if she should take him to the little boy's gravesite, or not? what do you all think? we are all grieving for this special little boy and his family. apparently, he has been sick for a long time, caught pneumonia for the second time in less than six months, and now he is gone. i hope you all can offer something for me to share with my daughter. perhaps you know of a book that a parent could read to a child concerning when little kids die and a child's understanding of death. i don't know. i'm so caught up emotionally right now over this that i am even at a loss for words. go figure. anyway, thanks for any help you all can offer. :kiss

Wow, Renee,

We're not lining up to try to comment on this one, are we?

I have no idea what to say. I remember my paternal grandmother died when I was about that age. It seems to me that I had a pretty realistic idea of what death was/is and things like that. I remember that I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral.

I guess the main thing will be letting your grandson work through his pain. Loss is such an individual thing, isn't it?

I think two things that would occur to me is that your grandson should know that he did not go away on purpose, and that the problem he had was specific to HIM and not at all likely to claim your grandson.

Poor kid.




365 Posts

I would approach this from a religious aspect if this were me explaining it to a child. I would try to help him understand that this little boy has been sick on an ongoing basis and that God loved him very much and didn't want him to continue to suffer. Since God sees the entire picture of our life, only He knew what this little boy was yet to face and he was spared a possibility of much more pain and suffering. I think the balloon with a good bye letter is an excellent one. This will give him a chance for some closure as he can say good bye to his friend and let him know he will see him again someday. One thing for certain, this little man should be encouraged to vent his feelings, be they anger, confusion, no matter what they are. My heart aches for him. To learn the realities of life at such a young age is very painful. My thoughts and prayers will be with him and his family. Do they have a family minister that could arrange some casual talks with him, to help him understand the beauty of Heaven and that death is just the beginning to a wonderful journey?


Guest Marj Griggs

0 Posts

Compassionate Friends might have some suggestions, suitable books for a 7-year=old, etc. There should be a chapter in your area. I"m sorry I"m not computer savvy enough to give you a link.


244 Posts

Originally posted by Marj Griggs

Compassionate Friends might have some suggestions, suitable books for a 7-year=old, etc. There should be a chapter in your area. I"m sorry I"m not computer savvy enough to give you a link.


I am happy to be of any support here and I am computer savy enough to supply a link here it is:

I also did a web search with Children+death+dying+how+to+explain

the results are in the attached file [ :devil: I tried to post but the format for the file in a IE format is an illegal operation so put the links above] They look like the same link in the preview window but each is a different link to a different site the most relevent are on top (first)

I hope this helps. Personally I have a plan that oneday in Kindergarten we start the education of our children with life science projects that would include life events such as death, dying, and birthing. I once made this as a class presentation for my human growth and developement class college level, but that was back before I knew what a computer could do. So I do not have the plan anymore but it starts with fish and earth worms as class pets. It showed how all of us are inter-related dependant on each other in the food chain, ecology,... it was a broad spectrum type of plan requiring several years to actually complete ending with Human Growth, developement, sexuality, the life span and of course reproduction and death, based upon what they learned in the previous years


61 Posts

I worked Peds for many years--long ago. There was a book out called "The Fall Of Freddie The Leaf." Look for it. It is a wonderful book to help explain death to a child. I used it at work for parents and have had family members use it with the death of grandparents. I hope this helps. Linda

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

I just emailed this entire page to my daughter so she and her husband can use many of your wonderful suggestions in aiding their son in his time of grief over the loss of his little friend.

I can't thank you all enough for caring. You guys are lifesavers...angels no less, and I love you for caring enough to share and care here. (((HUGS))) and :kisses.

They do have a family minister who my daughter says she will talk to as well. They are a Christian family, and have shared with their son that his little friend now lives with God. Your suggestions will come in handy as well.

Again, thank you all!

Renee :)


6,620 Posts

The fall of freddie the leaf is a great book! There are a lot of others out there too, and they're sure to be at your public library. Another good one is A Story for Hippo: a book about loss by Simon Puttock. It is specifically about the death of a friend and it's such a sweet book, or "I had a friend named Peter" I think the author is Cohn. There are a lot of resources out there to guoide parents in these talks.

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

Thank you, fergus51, for your help. I went ahead and re-sent this page to my daughter and her husband. I spoke to her earlier today, and she said my grandson still prays out loud about his friend. Again, you guys have been great with your suggestions. God bless each one of you dearly. :kisses

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