How do you explain to a 2.5 year old the concept of death?

While getting ready to go to our dear family friend Terri’s memorial service, I tried to find a way to explain to Dru what was going on.  Then I realized that my sister-in-law had given me the perfect explanation.

Saturday, when Kellie was sitting at the table upset over the news, Dru came up and the following conversation ensued.

Dru: “Aunt Kellie, you’re sad.”

Kellie: “Yes, Dru, I’m sad.”

Dru: “Did you bump your head?”

Kellie: “No, my heart hurts.”

Dru: “Oh, my heart hurts too Aunt Kellie.  Hugs?”

As we were heading out the door, with Dru all dressed in his navy suit for the memorial this evening, he asked where we were going.  I told him we were going to see Uncle Keith and that he would need hugs.  Dru asked if he was sad, and I said yes, like Aunt Kellie, his heart hurts.  He then asked if everyone here’s heart hurt, and I told him yes, because Aunt Terri went away and wasn’t coming back.  He told me he was sad too, and when we got there, gave Keith big hugs.


I don’t know if this is the recommended way that we’re supposed to handle death with a toddler, but it seemed to work for him.  It was something he could wrap his brain around, and the empathy he showed was very sweet.  Despite the fact that we’ve had no trouble at bedtime (or in the night) for the past month or so, it took him about an hour and a half to fall asleep tonight.  He kept telling me he was sad and that I needed to come back.  I think he picked up on all the emotions that the many people at the service were feeling.  He was super sweet to those he knew, but you could tell he was picking up on the general sadness.


On behalf of our family, Terri, you will be missed and always loved.  You touched many lives, and the turnout today just confirmed that for everyone.


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