Talking to children about death

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-27-2008
Talking to children about death
Mon, 05-04-2009 - 4:07pm

Hi all,

My son will be turning 4 in a few weeks. Our family cat has kidney disease and we're going to have to put him down soon. I need some help explaining this to my son. Does anyone have any advice or book recommendations for talking to a young child about death?


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-12-2006
Mon, 05-04-2009 - 5:45pm

Someone here had suggested "The Fall of Freddy the Leaf" as a great explanation about death for children.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 08-23-1997
Mon, 05-04-2009 - 7:24pm
I'm a school librarian and I highly recommend The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst. It's about the death of a cat and it's told by a little boy. There are no religious overtones to the book at all which makes it especially good for families like ours. In fact one of the kid's friend says maybe the cat is in heaven and the dad says we can't be sure heaven exists.
Sorry to hear about your cat. It's always hard to lose a beloved member of the family. My youngest was about the same age as your daughter when our dog died. It's hard to explain this stuff to kids.
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-27-2008
Tue, 05-05-2009 - 12:14pm
Thanks so much for your suggestions. I will look for both of these books today.
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-10-1999
Wed, 05-06-2009 - 4:21pm

I am very sorry about your cat. I, too have lost a cat to the same disease and it is so difficult. I am sure you have given kitty a very nice life.

My son is the same age as yours (turns 4 6/23) and in the past 2 years we have lost 2 cats. He remembers them both and talks about them a lot, especially the one that died 2 years ago. Both of the books suggested sound wonderful and I wish I had know of them when our cats died but we just told Cole "Loki died" and then "Bella died". When Loki died 2 years ago, I did go on to explain that she isnt coming back and that she had been sick. She isnt sick any more but she isnt coming back. I do believe that he understood. He may not get the full concept of death but he knows that living things die and that means they arent coming back. So when we lost Bella, he got that pretty quickly.

I feel like he understands, to an extent, because last month our friend's husband died suddenly at a very young age. When we got the news we were very shocked and when Cole asked what was going on I explained that we were very sad for our friend because her husband died. He sat for a minute and then got up and hugged me and told me he loved me. Now, that could have been because I said that his Daddy and I were sad, but I do think he understands. It is amazing to me how much they actually do grasp that we dont even realize.

Hugs to you and to your family. I know worrying about how your child will take it is almost as hard as losing the pet itself. My deepest sympathies. And best wishes on telling your child.


May your day include things that are happy!
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-22-2003
Wed, 05-06-2009 - 8:58pm

I am sorry for your pet, it's never easy. We lost my Grandmother last year and more recently a 2 year old hamster. My 5yo dd was speaking of Granny and Cinnamon and said "perhaps they are together now and can play". and I replied that some people call that heaven we don't know where they are but they can always play together in our hearts that's where we keep their spirits.
I find that there isn't really one conversation about death it comes in bits and pieces. Little moments like these seem to bring it all together.

Good Luck.