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How Do You Explain Heaven?

I don't know why death is on my mind this week. Maybe because my brother in law was killed 2 years ago this week. Maybe because Diva has been asking a lot of questions about heaven and death. Maybe a combination. I don't know, but it is. Death is a natural part of life. A part I don't like, but a part none the less. Diva has been very curious about death and Heaven lately. How do you explain Heaven to a 3 year old? It started during a conversation about family. She is deeply interested in who my mom and dad are and who Daddy's mom and dad are. Well, that's where it's complicated. Papa J is not Daddy's Daddy. Papa Walt is Daddy's Daddy. "Where is he?" goes...Mr. Hubs and I had been married 3 months when his dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time we found it the cancer had spread- everywhere. Mainly it had spread to his brain. We were hopeful and optimistic. We fought a good fight. His dad was a real trooper and humored us as we took him to appointments and treatments and tried all sorts of interventions. However, in the end the battle was lost. 9 months after the cancer was found Papa Walt died. The whole family had gathered and was by his side. It was a very traumatic event for me since I had never watched someone go through that. I was was very fond of my father in law and took his death hard. Mr. Hubs and I have tried to keep Papa Walt's memory alive. We didn't have children at the time of his death, but knew that we wanted our future kids to know who he was. Naively at the time we thought that was the worst thing that was going to happen to us. Well, fast forward 4 years to the "my brother in law was killed 2 years go this week" comment. Two years ago Mr. Hubs and I were content in our lives. Diva was 1 1/2 and a living doll. My mother in law had married Papa Jim and Mr. Hubs and his brother were getting along well and having a good relationship. I was at work talking on the phone to Mr. Hubs ironically when his best friend called to tell him his brother had been in a car accident and was killed. I'm pretty sure the world stopped turning. I know the air left the room. That was two years ago this week. At the time Diva wasn't old enough to understand. Now she is asking questions about her family. We have pictures up around the house of Papa Walt and WJ. We talk about them and share memories of them. Diva is very curious about where they are and why she can't see them. There are lots of questions. I've tried to explain that they are in Heaven and we can't see them. This is a lost point with her. The next comment is always "I want Papa Walt." I see the pain across Mr. Hubs face as he gets really quiet and tries to avoid the subject. I try to change the subject after about 5 attempts to explain. It's a common occurrence around here to take Diva and look at all the pictures of Papa Walt and WJ. She doesn't understand how Papa Walt is Daddy's Daddy, but she had a Papa Jim who is married to Nana Sue. I clearly haven't come up with any good explanations since we continue to have the same conversations every other day. I'm at a loss. Do I keep with the same explanations hoping she will understand? Do I change the subject immediately? I honestly don't know what to do. I don't want their memories to die, and I want Olivia to know about her Daddy's family. So, for the time being I guess I will continue to repeat the same conversations about Papa Walt and WJ and let her know that we love Papa Jim dearly and are very happy we have him.


  1. It is really hard for kids to understand this concept, because they are egocentric. They believe in what they can see and it's really hard for them to understand heaven and death. Sorry, I don't have any suggestions or advise. Just know that I have worked with a ton of young kids and haven't met one that hasn't questioned it. So Diva is normal!


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