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How do I explain to my 3yr old where my Mum is?

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#1 flowermama

Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:37 PM

DD1 is 3yrs and has just started asking where my mum is and why we don't see her. Mum died just before I conceived DD1. I have no idea how to explain death to her and as it took me by surprise I got a bit upset. I said my mum had to leave which of course made no sense to her, she then was asking if Mum left because she didn't like her house, or didn't like us. I've distracted her for now but I do want to explain to her why Mum isn't here, I just don't know how to do it in a way she'll understand. Any help appreciated.

Edited by flowermama, 12 April 2012 - 01:38 PM.

#2 Dowager fancie

Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:45 PM

OP, I'm sorry for the loss of your mum.

I know this is going to be difficult for you, but I think you really need to bite the bullet and sit down and explain to your little one about death.

Let her know that usually people live long healthy lives but their bodies slow down and don't work as well as when they were young and full of energy and that eventually their bodies slow down so much that they just don't work anymore.  If you have personal beliefs about what happens after death then let her know that too.

I would also explain that everyone gets sick sometimes and lots of times medicines can fix them up, but some people get sicknesses that can't be fixed and even though they may not be old, that their bodies just aren't strong enough to beat the sickness and they die too.

#3 HRH Countrymel

Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:46 PM

You are going to have to tell her "My Mum is dead."

Three isn't to young to understand dead. She's seen dead ants and dead flies, perhaps she needs a short lifespan pet to bring it home?

But as she never knew her Grandma it isn't going to be a huge trauma to her - just explain that she has a Grandma who would have loved her so much because she loved you so much.

Explain that you miss your Mum but that having a daughter of your own (especially one a awesome as your DD) makes you less sad.

*when my Mum died I was at a friends house and her young son said "Your Mum is DEAD!" I said "I know, and I miss her.", he then said "She was mean to make herself dead when she knew you would miss her - I hate *** his special name for my Mum*"

I (and his Mum) then explained that she didn't choose to die, that she would have been very sad to know that we were all missing her but that a good way to not be sad was to tell stories of things about her that we liked.

Even now (three years on) if I am telling a story that involves my Mum in front of that little boy he will explain to any 'outsiders' "Countrymel is talking about ***. She is dead but we tell stories about her so that we don't miss her.."

Edited by countrymel, 12 April 2012 - 01:54 PM.

#4 Melissa4444

Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:51 PM

We don't do the whole heaven thing, so I'm not sure if this is helpful as I know a lot like to include that.

Alexander and Sam are extremely literal, so we had to be so careful about the way we explained Mum's death to them.  We explain that Nana was a special kind of sick (rather than just sick, as then they're terrified as soon as anyone gets sick) and that sometimes you can get this special kind of sick where Doctors can't make you better anymore.   We simply explained that this special kind of sick started in her brain and affected her whole body and it finally stopped working and she died.  

We explained that when you die, that's it, you're just gone now.  That we can remember her, see photos of her etc, but that she can't come back. We tell them it's ok to be sad about that, that I am sad about that and that I miss her.

It seems to be enough so far. I didn't get into cremation etc with them. I honestly don't think that Alexander would cope.

#5 meljb

Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:53 PM

I've had to explain this to my 4 year old ds about both my parents, he first asked when he was about 3 I think. I've told him that his nanna and granddad died before he was born and that that means that we can't see them anymore because something in their bodies stopped working and the doctors couldn't fix them. I tell him that my parents would have loved him and his sister very much and that I wish he could have known them.
Every so often he asks again and I explain again. I also had to explain that it is a topic a lot of people don't like talking about because it makes them very sad.

#6 Guest_tigerdog_*

Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:01 PM

Let her know that usually people live long healthy lives but their bodies slow down and don't work as well as when they were young and full of energy and that eventually their bodies slow down so much that they just don't work anymore.  If you have personal beliefs about what happens after death then let her know that too.

This is what I would tell her too.  I tell my DS their father is in heaven and up in the sky 'fishing for stars'.  How to explain his (accidental, we believe) suicide is another issue to face later - DS (3.5) is already asking why he died, so far I've just told him his heart stopped working.

#7 new~mum~reenie

Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:07 PM

DS understands dead. Seen human bones on Time Team and sheep bones in the paddock. We have always been matter of fact about it.

We have photos of deceased loved ones around the house and he throws in a new question every now and then.

IE - a particular one we have is 'Nanna Mac'. She was my Nanna and I was very close to her. It crushed me that she died long before DH and I were married, but at least she met him. Also very sad that she never got to see DS, but I digress......

So, we have photos around and I say "That is Nanna Mac, she's dead now, but she would have loved you very much and given you great cuddles if she were still here"

then you get the questions like "Where is she?" we say her body is buried in the ground. He has been to the grave and we have a photo of it, but we need to go again soon so he can understand it a bit better.

I explained that Nanna Mac is 'Grandma's mum'. Then he asked who will his mum when I die. I explained you only get one mum, and when I die he wont have a mum anymore - but that is a LOOONG way away and he will be a Daddy with his own kids before that happens.

I suggest you get out some photos - and take you 3 yr old to the grave with some flowers. AND! share stories!! I often say things like "I used to come here with Nanna Mac" etc. and it opens up dialogue original.gif

ETA: Tigerdog - that must be a tricky one to explain - I think, like you, I'd save it till later...

I tell DS (who loves all things with motors) that things and people get old and broken, and eventually stop working. Just like a car will get old and rusty and the motor will die, the same happens to people.

#8 sparkle77

Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:20 PM

We had to explain to our 3 yo that her baby brother had died, when she had only just finally understood that a new baby was coming.  She still asks why, we say he was really sick and the doctors couldn't fix him, so he died.  When she is older we will fill in more details.

#9 flowermama

Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:50 PM

Thanks for the good advice. I explained it to her this afternoon, unfortunately she is very sensitive and started to cry, saying she doesn't want to die  sad.gif I think I'll do as suggested and bring up my Mum in relevant conversations so that she gets to understand it more. It is hard but she does need to know what death is, I just worry that she'll get a bit obsessed with it (all her toys are forever getting sick and being treated at the Mummy doctor after she went to the doctor a while ago!). I think if I don't make too big a deal of it and just be quite matter of fact she'll be less likely to overthink it. Thanks again.

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