I should note first off that we are Christians and follow Christian beliefs, so the things I discussed with him mention that. I explained to my son that Great-Grandpa had passed away the day after he'd died, but as my son quickly pointed out - kids don't know what "passed away" means. So I said simply told him that he had died and that he'd went to Heaven. Zeke said, "To be with Jesus!" I nodded and explained briefly about the visitation, the funeral that would be the next day and how the body would be there. Zeke looked very puzzled so I told him that Grandpa's soul went to Heaven to be with Jesus. And Zeke asked "What's a soul?" Well, that's an excellent question...one that I have no idea how to explain to a four year old! So I said that is was the thing that made him Grandpa. Just like Zeke's soul is the thing inside him that makes him unique and makes him "Zeke." Zeke's really into animals and wildlife too so I asked him if he remembered that time Daddy found a big snake skin. I said that when we go to heaven, we're kind of like that snake. (LOL, just stay with me on this one...) Our soul is like the snake, it sheds it's body/skin and leaves. The snake goes about his business and our soul goes on to Heaven. All that's left behind is our body/the snake's skin. I know it's a crazy analogy but it really helped him to understand. Overall, I just tried to let him know that even though his Great-Grandpa is gone, we can help keep his memory alive but remembering the good times we had with him and spending time with Great-Grandma.
We took the kids to the visitation and funeral, which is a personal choice - I don't advocate that everyone should do that with their kids. It's just what we feel is right for us and our family to do. I feel they have to learn about it somehow and as long as they're there with us, they can ask us questions and learn more about life. We went into it with the idea that we could always leave if needed but both kids did pretty well - I only had to take Ellie out briefly during the funeral service because she was getting antsy. They both got flowers after the funeral that they brought home and put in a water bottle on the table.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear reader. Have you talked to your kids about death? Have you taken them to visitations or funerals? Feel free to share in the comments.