Does Anyone Out There Know How To Explain Death to a 4 Year Old??!!!!

For quite sometime now, EJ, has been asking numerous questions about dying and going to heaven. I apparently, have been missing the boat on how to explain it to him correctly. Because almost every time we get deep into the discussion, my four year old either gets choked up or actually starts crying....

Tonight, he asked me again about heaven. He said, "Mommy, when you die and go to heaven, do you stay there forever and ever?"

In a light hearted, loving way, I replied, "yea, and it is going to be a wonderful place that we will be able to be with God."

With alligator tears and a knot in his throat, EJ said, "But mama, I want to get married first...."

Oh good grief.... what's a mama to do here?

At least it was about getting married this time. The last several times we have discussed death, he has said that he doesn't want to be away from CJ or I. And he means it!!!

What is struggling to me, is that I can't even get the concept of heaven down, accurately. And truthfully, when I was a child I used to have small panic attacks about my parents dying or me. Honestly, I am not even fully at peace with the thought of dying and leaving my children, motherless.

My, have I gotten a bit too deep for the blogging world?

Anyways, any ideas out there on how to explain death and heaven better? Or any good books that you can recommend?

By the way, no one has died that he knows. And frankly, we are not anticipating the death of anyone either - you know what I mean! I am sure that this is a normal time of childhood to start understanding this concept - but good, grief, how do you explain it to a four year old???!!!


  1. When I was 6 years old, my dog died, my grandparents dog died (who was from the same litter) and my Poppy died. Right around that time, we went to my Gramma's house, and when we were getting out of the car, I asked my dad if he was going to die too. Obviously, it was on my mind. He told me that he did not have any plans on dying - and just reassured me that we were in God's hands. I don't really remember all that he said, but it was all that I needed.

    The devil wants us to live in fear, but we can be released from it. Our whole life is in God's hands - and we need to grab a hold of that. The Lord knows the desire of your little guy's heart - even at this age, to be married someday! As we follow Him, he does give us the desires of our heart.

  2. just as a sidenote.... I always look for where my children learn things. I'm wondering about some events from CCC in PA...

    EJ may have been aware of, even if you didn't think he was, of either of two tragic deaths which occurred in our church family; one to a boy his age, and another to the father of a boy his age.

    Children pay attention a lot more than we think, and they don't always say anything until a long time later (often when they finally find a way to articulate it.) He may have heard adults discussing it. I know that other children his age (or slightly older) were aware of these things and may have talked about them around him.

    Lord, please help EJ to entrust his life and future to you, knowing that you love him and will care for him.

  3. It is not an easy one to answer. We have faced a few of these conversations. DS for a time wanted to die so he could be with Jesus NOW. That was a bit scary. He asked his Grandma if she would still be alive to meet his kids some day. Of course we hope so but there are no promises.

    It is hard to articulate but I think sharing your heart and your love for the Lord, he will get through the fear. Maybe you should talk to him more about the fear and that he can cast all his fears to Jesus.

    One other thing, of all things in life my dad regrets it is not allowing my sister to go to my grandpas funeral. He thought she was too young. They never thought to ask her. Years later it came out that she thought she was being punished that she could not go and that she wanted to go to say good-bye.

  4. i just ahve to say i have no idea, i am so sorry....

  5. We had to approach the topic early with JCC due to his Nana's death when he was 15 months old. He was VERY aware of who she was and questioned why she wasn't with Papa anymore.

    Since then, we have had a number of conversations on the topic...some which resulted in tears and crying and not wanting to be away from us. I think this is a natural reaction. My response has been that God knows what we need and when we need it - and he will not allow us to go through anything we cannot handle with him helping us. It's not perfect, but it has helped. JCC has also asked me what heaven is like...if God has Thomas trains there and Rescue Heroes and such. I have told him that I don't know exactly what heaven is like but I know that God is a loving God and he will always take care of our needs - here on earth and in heaven.

    I have seen in JCC a strong desire for everyone to know Jesus. He doesn't want anyone to perish. I believe this is evidence of the gift of evangelism. I am telling you this because I am sensing that EJ has this gifting as well. This could be a reason why he is so sensitive to the subject.

  6. Wow - I couldn't believe this post. Just days ago my daughter (turning 4 at the end of January) said she wanted to give a Christmas card she was looking at to Jesus. So I asked her, "how are you going to get it to Jesus?" (I was curious because although we've talked about heaven we haven't had too many talks about how you GET to heaven). She said she was going to walk it up there. Our conversation went on to talking about how we will get to heaven someday. I talked about how if we are Christ followers we will go to heaven for eternity or that we will go to heaven if we are still alive when Jesus' returns. I emphasised that I think that Jesus' return is soon and this is how we are going to go to heaven. But if it is death - that we don't need to be afraid - our lives are in God's hands. I also emphasised that although heaven will be an awesome place...I told them about how God placed us her for PURPOSE and that we want to be here on earth until our purpose is fulfilled and God calls us to heaven.

    Then my son (who is also almost 4 - they are twins) asks "what if you don't go to heaven?" So our conversation went on to hell and how some people don't serve God and do not love God and that they serve Satan, etc... This conversation totally caught me off guard but I believe the Holy Spirit gave me words to say. I am sure it is just the start of many conversations we will have.

    I would encourage you to continue to look for new ways to present it. I have found that my son will sometimes ask questions over and over and over (yes and over again) and then the light goes off when I finally explain it in a way he understands.

    I will pray that the Holy Spirit gives you wisdom in answering your child's questions and that He will give you the words to say.