My husband’s grandma passed away this past week, and my grandpa is getting close. Naturally, my children have had a lot of questions about death. This is a re-post from January 2010. Death is such an abstract concept and is hard to explain to children. I just thought I’d share the activity we did with our little ones. It’s a very visual activity, which is great for my kids. (Disclaimer: I am LDS, or Mormon, so this focuses on my beliefs. You could easily adapt it to your family’s beliefs.)
Materials: A glove (I found it was helpful to have one glove for each family member–keeps them more engaged!)
Lesson: When we chose to come to earth, we knew we would be happy and sad, and that someday we would each die. Great-Grandma lived a long time here on earth. She got to experience happiness and sadness. And it was her time to go back to Heavenly Father last night.
Pretend that my hand is your spirit (hold it up). We each lived as a spirit with our Heavenly Father before we came to this earth. The spirit can live and move by itself (wiggle fingers). Pretend that this glove is your body (hold it up). Until the spirit enters it, the body cannot move. By itself, it has no life. When the time came for you to enter this world, your spirit was clothed in your body (put on the glove), and your body came alive. From your birth to your death, your spirit and your body are together (wiggle fingers in glove), and you are said to be alive. At the time of your death, whenever that is, your spirit will be separated from your body (pull off the glove and hold it up). Your body will again become lifeless (drop the empty glove). It will not be able to move because your spirit will be gone from it. Your spirit, however, will never die (wiggle fingers). It goes to be with other spirits who have been separated from their earthly bodies.
This is what happened to Great-Grandma. Her spirit was separated from her body. The part of her that looked out through her eyes and allowed her to think and smile and act—that part of her is her spirit and lives on. She is only separated from her body. Someday, she will be resurrected, which is when her spirit goes back into her body (pick up glove and put it on again, wiggling fingers). Then, Great-Grandma will live with Heavenly Father again. We can do the same when we die if we make good choices.
We then allowed time for questions, feelings, anything our children wanted to say.
(Many of these thoughts came from a Family Home Evening Guidebook produced by my church.)