"" Writer's Wanderings: Is Grandpa Still Dead?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Is Grandpa Still Dead?

[As I post this article from a few years ago, the mass shooting in a Florida school is still fresh. So much more difficult to understand than the passing of someone who has led a full life. May God give peace to those who grieve.]

The finality of death is a difficult concept for any of us to understand and especially so to a youngster. When her great grandpa died, Danielle, age 3, understood most of what her mommy told her but it was hard for her to believe that this gentle man who loved her would not be around to give her a hug again—at least not on this side of heaven.

 "I can't imagine how difficult it would be to explain death to a child if you didn't believe in Jesus or Heaven,” said Danielle’s mommy, Lori. “Through a sad event, we were able to share with our kids the joy of Heaven and God's promise for those who love him.”

As grandmothers, we may be called upon to help our grandchildren deal with the loss of a loved one. “Grandparents can be tremendous role models for accepting the trials and triumphs of life,” says Brenda Nixon, a recognized expert in early childhood parenting and author of Parenting Power in the Early Years. “Show your grandkids that grief and pain cannot be avoided as a part of living, in fact they need to see your rollercoaster of tears and smiles. This teaches them to grow up accepting the emotions to respect their own reactions.”

Here are a few things we can do to help our grandchildren through the stages of grief:
·       First, be truthful. Let them know why you are sad. “Grandpa died.” You can then go on to explain that when people die there is a part of them that goes to heaven to be with Jesus. My son is fond of using food in his explanations of spiritual things. He uses an egg to explain how God can be Father, Son and Holy Spirit and still be one. In explaining to Danielle about Great Grandpa dying, he used a banana. The inside part was gone but the peel remained.
·       Encourage children to express their feelings. They will experience a range of emotions as well—guilt, anger, confusion—all a part of the grieving process. Let them talk about it.
·       Recall fond memories. Talk about the loving, fun and/or funny things you remember about the person. Let the children add theirs and affirm their recalling of the events. Remember, it’s their version, their cherished memory.
·       Remember that children will react differently according to their age. “Young children often think death is temporary,” says Nixon, “and it isn't until the age of 11 years that they're able to comprehend its finality.” While preschoolers may think that Grandpa will wake up again (resurrection aside), elementary age children may want more detailed explanations of death and dying and teens may react in ways that seem silly or be withdrawn as a means of coping with such strong emotions.

When teachable moments arise, use them to prepare your grandchildren just as you did your children. Our soon-to-be four year old granddaughter was fascinated with the fact that I have a “little” brother like she does. Hers is only seven months old. Mine is fifty-five. But she suddenly realized that if I have a brother, I must have a mother.

“Where is you mommy?” she asked.

“My mommy lives in heaven,” I answered.


“Because she got very, very, very, old and died. Then she went to live with Jesus in heaven.”

“Oh, why?”

The conversation continued for a bit, each response countered by “why?” That’s what soon-to-be four year olds do. But when the time comes, perhaps she will understand that this Grandma is happily with Jesus in heaven and, although she will miss me, I will be still be in her life as a cherished memory because we love each other so very much.

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