Periodic Contributor

A Time for Heaven Story. How to Explain to Kids Where People Go when They Die

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My dad’s not here, but he’s watching from heaven. – Bubba Watson


There is never a suitable time to die…for anyone. As I write this blog, I think of my dad, who left us 14 years ago, my grandma, who left us two months before the birth of my daughter and her first great-grandchild, and these are just 2 of hundreds that have passed away that were connected to me in some way. As each of us takes a moment to think about those that we believe made it to heaven, as well as those that went to h*ll, the question of definitions comes top of mind.


There have been bullies in my life that, at that moment, I would have sworn they should never go to heaven. There are people who died too young, like my college friend who was home for spring break his sophomore year that a hit and run driver killed as he rode his bike to work. Heaven....definitely.


It doesn’t matter if you are six years, 16 years, 60 years, or anything in-between and beyond. Death can change someone's life on earth forever.


But where did they go? That is a question that theologians have been pondering for centuries and still have not come any closer to the answer. So, what can a young kid and eventual adult do? How do we cope? What do we believe?


As a child, I was taught about heaven and h*ll in a religious setting.  The essence was that heaven was where all the good people went after they died and h*ll where the bad people went. But what exactly is good or bad? How do you explain it, let alone explain it to your grandkids? Suppose you and or your grandkids have a religious affiliation. In that case, your religion might give you the comfort and resources to define heaven or the reasons why h*ll might be the alternative.


If there is no religious affiliation, the question doesn't change, but the definitions and conclusion can become more muddied, and therefore, the discussion with your grandkids more convoluted.


So, what do you do?

 My plan to share with my grandkids starts with a discussion with my son and his wife on what they believe and what they would like me to reinforce with my grandson. Suppose they are looking for insight or suggestions on how to address this issue. In that case, I will share that another thing we can emphasize is that everyone, whether they have faith in a particular religion or not, believes in the basic tenet that we should treat others how we want to be treated.


If you want your child to be treated well, despite whatever your child chooses to believe, then we want to teach them to be kind and respectful and fair to children who don’t think as they do.

Kids love to play word games, particularly as you’re driving around in the car or trying the pass the time waiting in line, so I would play a game called "Fact, Fiction, or Belief?"


This game helps our grandkids learn the difference between 'fact,' 'fiction,' and 'belief' in terms of things around them, without making it about religion.


So, you might say, "Our car is blue—is that fact, fiction, or belief?" And you define "fact" as being something authentic, "fiction" is untrue (or made up), and a "belief" is something you think is true but can’t be proven either way. So, your blue car is a fact, pink grass is fiction, and “all dogs are good dogs” is a belief. 


As kids get better at discerning the difference, you can begin to tie the same concepts into different religious beliefs.


Children’s books about religious stories or holidays are also a fantastic way to introduce your kids to religions through storytelling rather than indoctrination.


I would love to hear how you deal with heaven and h*ll and your explanations to your grandkids. I would move heaven and earth to be able to explain this topic better. Please share.


Recognized Social Butterfly

A simple "I don't know" makes for a good, honest start.  Properly approached, it seems this is an endless, unresolveable topic unless repeatable, empirical data is produced to prove one way or the other.  The most frequent positive feedback I have received from younger generations I've discussed this topic with is gratitude for encouraging a healthy skepticism of purveyors of faith based belief systems who try to use fear, guilt, or insecurity to motivate faith in their answer.

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Social Butterfly

@CarleneS  Great topic!  Really love how respectful you are with your grandchildren, by discussing with your son and daughter-in-law about how they have chosen to raise their children.  Using that  as a cue on how to talk to them. Like the game idea too!

Periodic Contributor

Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, this is not an easy topic for adults to deal with and figured we have to look at it also from the lens of the kids. 😉

Social Butterfly

@CarleneS agreed! So smart.

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Gold Conversationalist

I would love to know where our loved ones go...the only thing I have to hold onto is faith and hope that I will see them again.  In the meantime the sadness remains having lost them too soon.

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Here's my take on Eternal Life. What's yours?


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