How do you tell your kids that someone in their life has passed away?

Grieving child


My mom was diagnosed with cancer then she passed away less than 6 days later. Telling my kids that their grandmother died was very hard, but it had to be done.

When my oldest child was born, we lived with my parents. That was 15 years ago. I was only 18 and was just out of high school. My parents took a large part in the parenting of my children while they were alive. Living in the same home with grandparents makes lines blur when it comes to parenting/grand -parenting rolls. My kids were always closer to my mom and dad than my nephew who lived 2 hours away from them.

When my youngest daughter was born we moved back into the home with my mom and dad. It was very hard for me to go back home, but for everyone’s safety both mentally and physically it was something that I knew must be done. For 6 months I had much more help than I’d have with the kids for years. If I needed a good night’s rest after being up with the kids night after night, my parents would take one or more of the kids for me to sleep. It really helped me a lot, as a single mom.

A few days before my daughter’s 6-month birthday, my dad was hospitalized and later passed away. My mother drove me to my ex’s house to tell the kids.

How do you tell 4 and 2 year olds that they will never see their grandfather again?
You just do it the best that you know how. Explain to them that their grandfather is in heaven with Jesus. That was what my kids understood more than anything. I was a lot more upset than the kids were when they were that age and lost a grandparent.
Fast forward 10 years and I had gained a husband and 2 step kids when my mother passed away.
I didn’t tell my kids that my mother had cancer until Sunday night before she passed away at 3am on Tuesday. The kids came down to the hospital to see her because she had been asking for them. She was not really mentally at herself that night. She talked to the kids a little, but would fall asleep mid-sentence. She told them all that she loved them and after a few hours of staying with her, they left to go back home.
The next morning my younger kids did not want to go to school because they were worried about their grandmother. My oldest lives with his dad, and he was convinced that my mother would be better. My husband had let his 2 kids know about my mother’s condition by phone. It was so hard on all of us, because we couldn’t all be together.
The next day my husband and I stayed with my mom in the hospital. The later that it got, we decided not to go home because my mother’s condition was getting much worse by the hour. I got to see my mother through her last minutes of life, but the worst thing for me was telling my kids what happened.
At 3am she was pronounced dead and I went to call my oldest son. His dad and I do not have the best relationship, and my 15 year old and I struggle very hard in our relationship because of a lot of the same reasons. So calling his dad to tell him to wake up my son was really hard for me to do emotionally on many, many different levels. It took a few phone calls to get through, but once I did and got to speak to my son it was very hard to tell him what actually happened. No one was looking for this so early. My son took it very well and stayed out of school the next day.
I decided not to tell the younger 2 kids until we made it home. They were staying with my aunt for the night. I woke them up from their slumber and gave them the worst news they had ever had to receive, since my son was 2 years old and my daughter was too young to really remember.
There were a lot of tears from everyone, including my aunt and my older cousin who was there. All in aIl my 13 and 10 year old took things fairly well. They had seen my mom at her worst, and told me that she was with Paw Paw looking down at them. It’s very comforting to know that they are strong in their faith.
My husband had to tell his kids about the bad news over the phone. All I can say is that my husband is a saint for how he handled everything. They were very upset, as they had lost other people that they were close to over the last few years, and really understood the deep grief better than my kids did when we told them. My step daughter was very emotional, and my husband handled it very well from the phone, reminding her of her step-grandmother’s salvation and that we will indeed get to see her again one day.
I don’t know that we handled telling our kids about the death of their grandparents in the correct manner. In fact, I don’t believe there is a correct manner to tell anyone that someone passed away. These days you read about family passing away on Facebook, which is one reason that I called my son at 3am instead of letting him wake up and read it online. I wanted to be the one that told him, not his phone screen or even his dad. This was something personal.
If you ever need to tell your child or step child about the passing of someone close, the first thing to do is to ask for Jesus to speak through you so that you can say what that child needs to hear. Then try to stay as calm as you possibly can, so that the child(ren) will know that you can still be their safety net when something goes wrong. I believe that those are the 2 most important things to do in the event you need to tell any child, or even adult that someone close to them has passed away.
I pray today, that you are filled with wisdom when and if you are ever put into this situation. It is not something that I wish on anyone, but it does happen to the most of us. Try to prepare now about how you would tell your kids something devastating. Ask for wisdom now instead of waiting.


  1. Very touching how you can share your personal experience.

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