Talking To Your Child About Death And Suffering

dreamstimefree 927079 533x800 199x300 Talking To Your Child About Death And SufferingThe 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!

Rosannsig e1316634468130 Talking To Your Child About Death And Suffering


Is your family currently dealing with unemployment in this difficult recession?  If so, you'll love my book UnEMPLOYED Faith.   This book was hardcover 300x300 Talking To Your Child About Death And Sufferingwritten 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.
 Talking To Your Child About Death And Suffering
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.
 Talking To Your Child About Death And Suffering

Latest posts by Rosann Cunningham (see all)


  1. Sharon

    Oh yeah, we've had these discussions and it is gut wrenching. Especially since I can't make heads or tails of some deaths and illnesses either. Kids getting sick, in accidents, abused, murdered, or just dying don't make sense. All I know, what I try to teach the kids, is that it all fits God's plan for better. For His Good, His Glory and I don't have to get it. What may be a 10 on my pain scale of 1-10, may be a 2 for the child who is suffering. That's where my comfort comes from.

    Luv ya sista

    • Rosann

      Thanks Sharon, you make such good points here. We're often given only what we can handle and each of us has a different tolerance. It's awesome that God knows our "pain" threshold. Love you too, friend. :)

  2. Anne @ Green Eggs & Moms

    I had this topic on my mind the other day and remember thinking to myself, "I wonder how Rosann would answer this question?" Well, I got my answer now.

    Anyway, I like this line: "..that's a big question many of us don't fully understand the answer to." I think as parents we try to have an answer to everything. To admit that we don't know everything especially when it comes to why God allows certain things is good. It will help our kids understand later on that there are just some things we need to leave to God.

    • Rosann

      LOL! Great minds think alike Anne. :) I agree with you, it's important for our children to see we don't always have the answers.

  3. Elizabeth

    I was expecting the next "child question" to be: "Does everyone go to Heaven?" -- this is the question I find incredibly hard. Obviously, we don't know who will go to Heaven-- only God does. And when your child says "That person doesn't go to church and doesn't know Jesus, etc..." then how do you explain what happens after death on Earth? (to a young child).

    Nicholas has asked me about death (in his own 4 year old way) -- and I keep my answer very simple. Because Jesus died on the cross for us - we get to go to Heaven to be with God forever. I know he doesn't understand it's all very hard. And it's hard to describe "faith" to a 4 year old boy. So, for now, I just keep things simple. And - I find that I often don't have "all the answers" to his questions -- and I don't want to lie to him or pretend to know.

    Parenthood is pretty hard sometimes! I am glad I don't have to do it alone!

    • Rosann

      Elizabeth, we actually have had that question come up before but surprisingly not in this particular conversation. Your answer to Nicholas is perfect and that's pretty much the same way I answered Faith when she asked the question months ago. Parenting is hard and it would be so nice to have an instruction manual for the little things we question. I know the Bible helps us with the big questions and the overall mission we are to achieve with our children, but what about the other questions that come up? :)

  4. Jennifer

    My father passed away last May. We sat down to tell our children and my 3 yr old looked at me and said, "Mommy it is ok, Grandpa is with Jesus. He'll wait for us till we can be again together as a family." There is a reason why we read in the scriptures that we should be humble like children. Thanks for this great blog post.

    • Rosann

      Jennifer, so sorry to hear of you father recently passing away. Sounds like your 3yr old is wise beyond her years. :)

  5. Amber Dobecka

    This article is so gracefully written and very encouraging. A very close family friend of mine recently passed away at the age of 20 in a horrible car accident. It's hard to know the words to say to those grieving when you don't know them, much more when you're grieving yourself. I think the points you make in this article are applicable for us at any age. Thank you so much for sharing.

    If you get a chance, check out I'd love to send you info on becoming a contributor there. :) Thanks!

    Amber Dobecka

    • Rosann

      Thanks so much for your visit Amber. I appreciate your kind words. So sorry to hear of your family friend passing away at such a young age. Checking out and finding the concept to be quite fascinating. :)

  6. Christina

    This is a great post, Rosann. It is so hard to answer these questions, but you've given some awesome guidance. It's tough even when they're teens. When my sons have experienced the death of friends, I've found it so difficult to help them accept the reasons why these things happen.

    • Rosann

      Christina, thanks for your visit and your sweet comment. I can imagine how difficult it is as a teenager when this issue comes up. With all the hormones raging and the questions they ask. Younger children seem to have the ability to trust and not complicate things too much, but as we get older our mind starts throwing out a lot more scenarios and questions that are often difficult to understand and answer.

  7. Frugal in WV

    I had to have this talk with my sons about my mother passing away. It's a hard topic to deal with, but important. I was happy with how well my boys did with the whole idea.

    • Rosann

      Thanks so much for stopping by. Glad to hear your sons responded to your mothers death with relative ease. :) You must have done an excellent job communicating with them about it.

  8. Courtney~Mommy LaDy Club

    This is a really helpful article Rosann. I have not had to face this as a step-mom, but my husband is older than I by quite a few years, and I know someday I will be a widow, unless I have an accident. His death is truly my greatest fear. It's a very difficult subject as an adult.

    • Rosann

      Thanks Courtney! You and I have something in common. My husband is 11 years older than me and he has a life threatening heart condition. It's a painful reality to think that unless God takes me first, I'll be spending my last years here on earth alone. I guess I better make sure I'm reeealllly nice to my kids, huh? Lol!

  9. lisa from insignificant at best

    Great tips! This is never an easy subject with adults, let alone trying to explain to your kids. I mean if a lot of us have a hard time reasoning why God would take a child from us so early in life or a parent from their little kids. If we have to struggle to remind ourselves why, how do you get a child to understand? I absolutely love the Footprints poem and think it's a great way to help answer this question and at least provide a little peace of mind.

    Thanks so much for the tips!

    P.S. Thanks for linking up to the GTKY blog hop! :)

  10. Sara Shay @ YourThrivingFamily

    I started writing a kids book about this after we had to tell our then not yet 5 year-old about our miscarriage. Hoping to get it done this summer.

  11. [...] been an emotional week in our home.   Not long ago I wrote a post Talking To Your Children About Death And Suffering.  Little did I realize, this week would be the week I'd have to have more of those conversations [...]

  12. [...] you know who might be coping with the loss of a loved one.  Not long ago I wrote a post about helping children understand death.  Now I'd like to share some lessons I’ve personally learned about [...]

  13. Christina

    My 8yr old son who adored my Grandpa his great Grandpa who lost his life to cancer this year is strugling with the loss of his Grandpa. Grandpa loved the Lord and we believe he is with the Lord its just hard when you want that person with you to be able to share your life with. Any ideas to comfort my son?

    • Rosann

      Hi Christina, thanks for your comment. So sorry for your loss. It's hard enough on us as grownups to understand and really wrap our minds around death, but it's even more difficult for children to get it. My Father in law passed away in September and he and my four year old were really close...the best of buds. She has really struggled with her grandpa's death. We've just made sure she knows how much her grandpa loved her and misses her right now. We also remind her that he's no longer sick or coughing or struggling to breathe. His body is perfect again in God's kingdom. We remind her that one day she will be able to see her grandpa again when she's in heaven. When they would hang out together, her grandpa taught her how to make bird calls with her's sort of this kissing into your hand sound/movement. So I suggested to her that whenever she missed her grandpa she could send him a bird call...which would be like sending a kiss up to him. That has been a great way for her to feel like she's doing something to communicate with him even though he's obviously not communicating back. I don't know what the answer would be for your son, but I guess I'm suggesting that you try to keep an open line of communication with him, help him think of a special memory he had and figure out some way he can hold tight to that memory. Put a picture in a small frame in his room so he can see his grandpa each day... things like that. Make sure he knows he's not alone in missing him, that you are also mourning. I hope that helps. Please know I'm saying a special prayer for you and your family, that God will bring an unfathomable peace over your weary hearts.

  14. [...] is a tough subject to discuss with children. Not long ago I wrote a post about explaining death and grieving to my child. The question of why God allows bad things to happen, was a part of our [...]

  15. Amber Lee

    My father-in-law passed away last week on August 14, 2013. My daughter turned 3 on August 17th. We let her have a private viewing before everyone else arrived so we could talk to her and so she could see her Buck. We didn't want her to think he had abandoned her. Buck adored her, and she him! She was the only grandchild until my baby boy came along in March of this year. We had told her he went to be with Jesus so when she saw him there she looked around and then asked, "where's Jesus? I thought Buck was with him?" After explaining that they were in Heaven and Buck didn't get to come home with us she gave him a hug and then said to use that Buck can't get out of the box. Then the look that crossed her face told me she finally understood. She cried, we cried, then we went home. She's only asked about him once more to grandma but she just calmly reminded her that Buck was with Jesus in Heaven and he wasn't coming back. It's SO hard with a 3 year old. If they hadn't been two peas in a pod I may not have emphasized it so much but I knew if she just never saw him again it would break her heart. Now to deal with my grieving husband...

    • Rosann Cunningham

      Amber, I'm so sorry to hear of your Father-in-law's passing. That's so hard to go through. We lost both of my husband's parents in a 10 month time frame. They were in poor health, but had also been married for over 50 years. We were immediately concerned after his dad died that his mom wouldn't be too far behind. She had a really tough time with his death, after having spent her entire life with him. Hopefully your daughter is coping well with the loss of her grandpa, now. It's hard to explain this kind of thing to young children, but what I've found is they often understand more than we give them credit for and their faith is amazing! My youngest was 3 when her grandpa died and they used to sit outside together and make bird calls. She would also comb his hair all the time. It was the cutest thing to watch those two together. Today marks the one year anniversary of his death. It does get easier but today isn't one of those easy days.
      Rosann Cunningham recently posted..Learning to Live Free in Christ’s LoveMy Profile

  16. Corey J Henson

    My son is four. As his father, it is my responsibly to teach him the Word of God. He had learned of death from the Bible, and doesn't fully understand what it means. He had been using the term far to much, and in the wrong ways. I'm not sure how to explain it to him.

    • Rosann Cunningham

      Corey, it's tough to explain to kids (as grownups we often struggle to understand death too!), but what we've done with our daughters (they lost both of their grandparents this year) is we teach them about God and Jesus through reading the Bible together (we use an age appropriate Bible for kids -- you can find them in any bookstore). When their grandparents died they went to the viewing and they touched the body in the casket and felt how different (cold/stiff) it feels. We then explain that the body is a shell that houses our soul during our life. When we die, the soul leaves the body and goes to heaven to be with Jesus and those who have gone before us. One day we'll see them again when we go to heaven. And of course we teach them about salvation -- when we believe with all our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is God's Son and that He was crucified to pay the price for our sins, we are forgiven and are granted eternal life beyond that of this world. I'll pray for God to guide you in explaining death to your son. It's not an easy topic to talk about, but you might be surprised at how easily your son accepts your explanation. There's something to be said for child-like faith. Kids have awesome amounts of faith! :)
      Rosann Cunningham recently posted..Learning to Live Free in Christ’s LoveMy Profile

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge