We have recently experienced an extremely tragic loss of a loved one in our family. This is the first time we have had a death in the family and Ashton has been old enough to somewhat understand or at least ask enough questions to get a grasp on the idea.
Trying to explain death to a five-year-old is not the easiest task I have tackled as a parent, especially considering my husband and I are also dealing with our own emotions during this time. The subject of physical death and the hope of Heaven are tough subjects to break down into terms that someone her age can get.
Ashton has been around this person several times and knows that he has been sick for a while. She realized this more so during the last two visits with him, after he was showing signs of his illness outwardly.
Right after he passed, we told her that he went to be with God and his parents in Heaven because he was sick and now he could be fully restored, healed and happy again. Not realizing at the time, we did not give her enough information.
The next day she heard that one of her friends was sick and immediately thought she was going to die and go to Heaven. So, how do we make the distinction between the two situations and explain to her in a way that is not going to scare her into believing every time any of her friends or family members get ill, that does not mean they are going to pass away.
Realizing that she is old enough now to ask questions and require more information for her constantly maturing little mind, we went into more detail. We referenced a past loss of a loved one explaining that Mammaw went to Heaven because her heart was tired or in this recent loss – a fight with cancer.
But even after that she still seemed unsure and worried, so I referenced a scripture from the Bible that speaks specifically about death and Heaven.
John 14: 1-3 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
Obviously, this also needed to be broken down, but it made it a little easier to expound upon and in doing so comforted me, as well.
We explained to her that your friends and family may not die from a little illness, but sometimes a big illness or old age can take a loved one from the physical world, but they are fully restored in Heaven and will never have to worry about being sick or growing old ever again. They have rejoined loved ones that have gone before them and most importantly basking in God’s constant goodness, love and care eternally.
He had a place prepared for him and He has one for you, too… when the time comes.
I hope her little mind and heart understand a little bit better now.
I know death is a hard subject to talk about and you may think that shielding your children from it may be the best option. While it may be the easiest, it is definitely not the best. Shielding them from this ever-occurring part of life also hides the hope of Heaven. Hiding the hard parts of life from Ashton or any of my kids, also limits them from fully understanding and getting to experience the grace of our Savior. Without that she would never have the chance to get excited about meeting Him face to face.
As I explained further about the joys of Heaven, more questions arose. Ashton asked me if Heaven would be better than ice cream, better than playing with Play-Doh, better than puppy snuggles, better than a fuzzy blanket?
Yes, so so so much better.
Without the hope of Heaven what do we really have at all?
(Paige Nash is a wife, mom, digital journalist for Webster Parish Journal and publisher of Bienville Parish Journal and Claiborne Parish Journal.)