top of page

Talking to Toddlers About Death

It was 6:30 in the morning of July 4 weekend I had just sent my husband in an Uber on a flight that we booked 75 minutes before departed to see his mom. I found myself hysterically crying at the counter of our kitchen Googling how to talk about death to toddlers.

Being a mom is the most challenging job I’ve ever had and the curveballs that it throws at me are those that I never could have prepared for… But when I reflect back all of those curveballs are just life.

I told the girls that Daddy had left to see Grandma because she was sick but she was very old. We were able to FaceTime as a family almost every day that he was there and when he returned we continued to FaceTime.

As things drew near the end, there was one night where we FaceTimed Grandma and Kinsley just kept saying "No no no no Grandma, no" and Jayna asked , "Why is Grandma sleeping."

As a parent I felt like I made a mistake, my job is to protect them but also to educate them about the world and I had just done something horribly wrong. 48 hours later we found out that my mother-in-law passed away peacefully in her sleep with her husband at her side.

Despite all of the reading that I had done nothing could prepare me for actually conquering this conversation… Or did I even need to conquer the conversation right now?

We called Grandpa to check in at the end of the day and both of the girls asked for Grandma… We told them that it was just going to be Grandpa there.

My husband was raised Jewish and in Judaism they light a candle on the yahrzeit which is the anniversary of anyone’s death and say the kaddish (memorial prayer), as my husband prepared the candle with tears streaming down our face we shared the intimate moment as a couple as the our daughters munched on their dinner in the background, oblivious to what was going on.

When the meal when the candle lighting was done, my husband turned the girls and said that we lit this candle for Grandma for all that she was and all that she is and both of you.

We then told them that Grandma was sick and she was old and we’re not gonna see Grandma anymore because her body stopped working. Given all of the research I had done about how to discuss this with toddlers, we decided it was best to just present facts and things that they could understand.

Jayna asked me if she was sleeping, and I said yes, but it’s a different sleep that happens when you’re old and very sick.

We then very quickly shifted gears as a family as to all of the things that we loved about Grandma… and both girls started immediately talking about her purple hats and the ones that they have just like her.

This is a raw experience that I captured at each stage of the grieving process.

I told the girls that Daddy was sad and asked how can we make him feel better and they both said we could give him a hug, which they immediately did.

At a few other moments in the day they just went up and hugged him and said I love you… Which is just proof that toddlers really do understand so much more than we give them credit for.

We decided not to have a major conversation about things because ages and stages, and I also want to be very cognizant that we didn’t discuss anything that could be potentially traumatizing for them. That is why we didn’t say she’s going to sleep for a long time or to sleep in will wake up, or something that’s hard to understand like she passed away.

And we didn’t even talk about God or Heaven. We just talked about all of the great things we love about Grandma which are undoubtably integrated into our daily lives.

We made chocolate cookies together as a family, which were one of her favorites, lit a candle in her honor and I found some sunflowers at the store (her favorite flower). And I imagine we will continue this tradition in the future to honor her memory and her greatness, but we have the ability to honor her greatness every day in our two grandchildren.


Blog Headshot.jpg

Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Kristen, a first-time Mom of identical twin girls who are 3. I work full-time, teach group fitness classes, and am on the wild ride of motherhood.

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Instagram
  • Amazon
  • TikTok
bottom of page