Talking About Death

Welcome to the February 2013 Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival: Honesty

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Authentic Parenting and Living Peacefully with Children. This month our participants have written about authenticity through honesty. We hope you enjoy this month’s posts and consider joining us next month when we share about Self-Expression and Conformity.



The day before we arrived home from our three and a half week trip to visit my parents over Christmas, I checked in with my friend Jess, who was looking after our house (and picking us up from the airport, because she’s that awesome!) while we were gone.

She had some bad news.

Our little dwarf hamsters, Henry and Todd, were dead.

They had been fed and watered, and checked in on, but they died while we were gone.

I knew my four year old, Abbey, would be devastated.

I brainstormed with Jess over the phone about ways to explain away their death, and dispose of their little bodies without Abbey knowing. My dad disagreed and said we needed to have a funeral “just like we did for your gerbils when you were a little girl”.

But after all that thought, I decided that the best way to address their deaths with my children was to tell them the truth, and help them grieve for their little furry friends.

I’m glad that I chose authenticity in this circumstance. Abbey was sad when I told her (after I cleaned up their bodies and their cage while she and Joseph played at Jess’ house) but I explained that hamsters have short lives, and that they had a happy life with us. She ventured that maybe they died because they were lonely. Or maybe just because they were “done playing on their wheels and got too tired.”

About fifteen minutes later, she came back to find me and said very calmly:

“It’s sad what happened to our hamsters.” and she cried just a little.

A few days ago, we were having dinner and a playdate at a friend’s house. Their mommy asked about Henry and Todd, and Abbey looked up from her plate, a little shocked.

“Oh, Abbey, Ms. Amber doesn’t know yet about our hamsters’ deaths” I explained.

Amber started to apologize, but Abbey interrupted her.

“It’s OK Auntie Amber. Our hamsters died. But they’re with Jesus now in heaven.”

She added:

“God will take very good care of their souls because He is our Almighty Father”.

. . . and I gave myself a little pat on the back for a job well (and authentically) done.

Have you had to speak to your children about death?

In what ways do you choose authenticity in your parenting?


APBC - Authentic ParentingVisit Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in next month’s Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon February 22 with all the carnival links.)


  1. Heh. We picked the same topic to write about. Abbey is so sweet in her explainations!

    • She really wow-ed me with her understanding and synthesis of the faith that we teach her and the explanation I gave her. All I said was that they had died. And she did the rest on her own!

  2. We’ve had lots of funerals at our house… Ceremonies and all… I think it’s very important for a child to be able to say goodbye respectfully and to understand death, to the extent they can at their age
    thanks for your lovely submission

  3. Here’s how I explained death to my child. It worked out pretty well except that he felt SO positive about it that he didn’t understand why people at the funeral were sad!

    Oddly, although I wrote about that explanation more than two years later, after our gerbils also had died, I didn’t mention that in the article…. Nicholas was very upset when we came home and found one gerbil dead. It was quite sudden. Within minutes, though, he became concerned for the feelings of the surviving gerbil, who looked upset. We moved him to a clean terrarium (we had two and alternated them), served his favorite food, petted him, and read him a story Nicholas chose. But by the next day that gerbil was catatonic. We were never sure whether he had the same problem as his twin brother or he just didn’t know how to go on alone. He wouldn’t swallow even when we put food in his mouth and didn’t respond to petting. So we walked a labyrinth and prayed for him. Soon after we came home, he died.

    Nicholas asked me if God’s house has rooms for gerbils, too. I reminded him that Jesus said not even a sparrow falls without God’s noticing. God loves every creature and takes good care of them. He was comforted by that.

    Did you have a funeral for your hamsters? When we buried each gerbil, we stood around the grave telling our memories of him and then said the Lord’s Prayer. It was helpful for ME, too, and for my partner who is not religious and feels very freaked out about death.

    • We didn’t have a funeral. I wouldn’t have been able to bury them for all the snow covering the frozen ground. . . it just wasn’t practical. But I did tell Abbey that she could pray for our Hamster friends, and I confirmed for her that they were definitely “with Jesus now in heaven” when she declared that it was so.

      She is so very interested in God – it’s a really sweet genuine curiosity and it’s really neat. Thanks for reading, ‘Becca! I’m going over to read your post right now! <3


  1. [...] Talking Honestly About Death – Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, is glad she chose to be honest with her children about the deaths of their pets, despite her fears of upsetting them. [...]

  2. […] Talking Honestly About Death – Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, is glad she chose to be honest with her children about the deaths of their pets, despite her fears of upsetting them. […]

  3. […] Talking Honestly About Death – Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, is glad she chose to be honest with her children about the deaths of their pets, despite her fears of upsetting them. […]

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