Wondering how to help your preschooler process death? Or need to explain death to a toddler? We hope you don’t need this information- we really, really hope not- but if you do, we’ve got some ideas about how you explain death to your kids.
2017 was a tough year in the KoeFoe house. My husband’s uncle passed away from terminal cancer. My husband’s grandma passed away from complications from surgery. And then my Nana….just…..passed away. Wave after wave of grief hit us, but seemed to miss our children, who weren’t close to these family members. Until Nana.
Every Tuesday night, since before our son was born, we had Taco Tuesday’s at Nana’s. We ate, watched Jeopardy, the kids did somersaults, sang into microphones, performed and were given chocolate and ice cream and cookies, oh my! At 93 years old, Nana even “babysat” Evie (with the help of her home health nurse) every Friday for a couple hours. Nana was a constant fixture in our lives, until one day, she wasn’t.
We knew we had to help our preschoolers process her death, but didn’t know quite how. Izzie, at 8 months was too young to know anything was going on. Evie, at 2 years, knew something was up, but certainly couldn’t comprehend.
But Cole? Cole, we found, was a wise – albeit brand new – 4 year old. He had questions, and we didn’t always know the answers.
When the end was eminent, I remember sitting with Nana. Tears in my eyes, she told me that crying was okay, that she was going to be fine, that this was God’s plan. I told her, “I know it is….I just don’t know what I’m supposed to tell Cole and Evie.” My pain was so profoundly compacted by the idea that I would also have to manage their loss, that at times it felt suffocating.
I’m not sure what we did was best, or right, but here are some tips for helping preschoolers process death. I hope that you don’t need them, but if you do, that they help.