Talking To Your Child About Death And Suffering

The topics of death or suffering are often very challenging for grownups to understand, and yet we are the ones who are responsible for teaching our children about these tough matters.  In doing so, we should choose our words carefully because we don't want to scare them, but we also don't want to lie to them either.

The reality is everyone is going to die.  And sadly, at some point in your child's life they are going to be exposed to either a friend or a family member enduring a difficult or scary illness.  Hopefully, when that happens you won't get caught off guard by the fully loaded questions your child is likely to ask, like mine did recently.

My daughter is very aware of death because our extended family is in the funeral business.  However, up until recently, her understanding of death was that only old people die.  Or those who get into unfortunate accidents.

Then not long ago, a little girl her age and who happens to have Leukemia, joined her same Daisy Girl Scout troop.  Interacting with this girl has caused my daughter to have a sudden frightening awareness of serious illness and how it can happen to anyone, even little girls her age.

More recently, she heard me discussing with my husband the news of my dad's cousin who was just diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Her question to me, "mommy, is he going to die?"

That night, as I tucked my daughter into bed, she broke into tears of horror and asked all the hard questions I was not prepared to answer.   Since I don't want you to get caught in that same uncomfortable situation without knowing what  to say, I'm sharing with you a good way to respond that is grounded in biblical truth and with kid friendly words.

Mommy, why does God allow little kids to get sick?

Sweetheart, that's a big question many of us don't fully understand the answer to.  Only God knows for sure.  But  I can tell you God loves all of His children so much and He knows what each of us is capable of handling.  So no matter how sick your friend gets, God has her wrapped up in His arms and is comforting her.  He carries us through the difficult parts of our life, whether that's illness, loss of a loved one, or the other tough things that we may have to face.

{Read Footprints In The Sand Poem}

Mommy, why won't God just make them all better?

God has the power to heal anyone at anytime.  Sometimes He does do just that.  Other times, it's not part of His plan.  And then there are times when he does heal, but not right away.   God wants a deep, loving relationship with His children.  Sometimes going through difficult times is what pulls us closer to God.  He wants our response to the bad things to be one of faith.  That means He wants us to remember that it's important to pray, it's important to trust Him to know what's best, and it's important to know God does all things for the good of those who love Him.  No matter how bad things get, He will ensure something good and beautiful comes from it.

Mommy, death is scary to me.  Do you promise I won't get sick and die?

Honey, everyone has to die eventually.  I don't know what God's plan is for you and your life.  But I know He loves you!  He's not going to have you experience anything you aren't capable of handling.  As for the scariness of death, it isn't something to be afraid of.  It's not final.  Jesus died on the cross for us so we can have eternal life.  This means when we die we get to live in Heaven with God.  And that's really good!  So when someone dies, they are just walking through the door that separates this world from Heaven.  It's the door that leads to a better life with God.  Of course, it's very sad for those who are left here without their loved one.  But remember, it's not permanent.  Eventually we will all be together again in Heaven.

God's word teaches us not to worry about what might happen tomorrow.  So I don't want you to worry your little heart over these big and sometimes scary issues.  Just be a kid and enjoy life.  No matter what tomorrow brings, you have a family and a God who love you more than ever.  And with all that love, there's nothing you won't be able to overcome.

**Disclaimer, this post is not intended to offend anyone who has lost a child or loved one or who has dealt with life threatening illness.  The subject of death and illness is a sensitive issue for most people, myself included.  I don't have all the answers.  I simply wanted to share how I answered my child's questions, in hopes that it may be helpful to you when you find yourself in the same situation.

Have you had this difficult conversation with your child yet?   Share in the comments below some ideas for how you effectively put your child's mind at ease.

~Until next time, may God bless you with the answers to your child's most heart-wrenching concerns!


Is your family currently dealing with unemployment in this difficult recession?  If so, you'll love my book UnEMPLOYED Faith.   This book was written based on my own experience with my husband's three year season of unemployment.   Purchase your copy today, and learn 10 tried and true coping tips for dealing with the overwhelming emotions you're facing.  For more details, visit the website UnEMPLOYED Faith.


The following two tabs change content below.
Rosann is wife to the man of her dreams and stay-at-home mom to two delightful little girls. Her heart's greatest passions are loving her family well, long-distance running, writing, and pretty much anything dark chocolate peanut butter. Rosann loves to encourage women whose husbands are in a season of unemployment, at her other website Her writing inspiration comes from a strong desire to glorify God while sharing the heart of her journey through a life of faith. She is also the Author of two books - UnEmployed Faith: Clothing Yourself in Strength and Perseverance Through his Season of Unemployment, and Refuel Your Inner SuperMom: A Practical Guide to Getting Your Groove Back.

Latest posts by Rosann Cunningham (see all)