Death is a subject that most parents avoid discussing with their children, especially when they are little. The main reason parents don’t talk about death is that it scares them and they aren’t sure how or what to say to their kids.
When my two daughters were 6 and 8 years of age, my wife’s father died. When we told the girls that their grandpa had died, my 6 year old daughter asked me: Daddy, what happens when you die? We didn’t change the subject or try to brush over it. Instead, we sat down with our daughters and opened up the Bible. We read Genesis 1-3 and talked about creation and how there was no death at the beginning. Next we explained how Adam’s sin brought death into the world and how we are all sinners and will die. We took out time and asked questions to make sure they understood what they were learning.
Next, we turned to John 1:1-34 and read that it was Jesus, the Son of God who created the world in the beginning and that He would come to earth to save us from our sins. We did our best to make it simple and easy for them to understand, again asking them questions and answering those that they asked.
From John 1, we turned a few pages and read John 3:16-21. We carefully showed them that Jesus came to pay for our sins and that if we believe in him as our Lord and Savior that we will have everlasting life. About then, our oldest daughter said that she thought grandpa believed in Jesus, but he still died. I realized that this verse was confusing for kids to understand. To help answer her confusion, we turned to John 14:13 and then to Luke 23:39-43. We showed them that Jesus prepares a place in heaven for all those that believe in him and that when we died here on earth, our souls will be taken immediately to heaven where we will be with Jesus and God.
We then explained that grandpa’s body died, but his soul is still alive and that he was with Jesus in heaven at that very moment. Grandpa was now happier than he has ever been. In heaven grandpa would never again be sick, or have any pain and that he would live forever with Jesus. They soon came to realize that heaven was a much better place than here on earth. I told them that as a Christian, I am not afraid to die and that I looked forward to the day when I die and will find myself in heaven with Jesus.
I’ll never forget the words of my oldest daughter when she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said: Daddy, I’m happy for grandpa that he is not sick or hurting and is with Jesus in heaven but I’m sad because I miss him. We explained that we’re all going to miss grandpa while we are still alive here on earth, but that we will see him again when we get to heaven.
At grandpa’s memorial service, I overheard our oldest daughter explaining to one of her friends that grandpa really wasn’t dead because he was in heaven with Jesus and that was very good for grandpa. She went on to tell her friend that she was sad because she missed her grandpa but that she will get to see him again when she dies because she believed that Jesus died for her sins. Hearing her words to her friend, I realized that she had grasped some of what we had tried to teach her about death.
After grandpa died, we regularly talked about death and what happens to believers and unbelievers. It wasn’t a subject we avoided. Whenever someone famous died, we would talk about death, heaven and hell and whether or not we believed that person had eternal life or eternal punishment and torment. It always provided a chance to reinforce our faith and our need for Jesus as our Savior.
Eight years later, my wife’s mother passed away. The girls were now 14 and 16 years old. Although they were still weepy, our oldest daughter gave me a big hug and said that she was happy for grandma because she was in heaven with Jesus and grandpa and that she never again would hurt so much whenever she moved around.
The girls didn’t need grief counselors like the secular world feels is necessary. They knew and understood what death was about and what happens when you die, depending upon your faith in Christ or your unbelief. They also understand that as a Christian, death is not something to fear; rather it is the ultimate reward to look forward to because of our faith.
For those kids reading today’s article, please ask your parents to talk about death and what happens when we die. For all of you parents, please do not avoid talking about death with your kids, but use it as a chance to teach your kids the very heart and soul of the Bible – a perfect creation, death enters the world because of sin, Jesus, the Creator and Son and God came to earth to die for our sins and that the only way to heaven is to believe in Him as your Lord and Savior.