PARENTS

So How Do You Explain To A Young Child What Happens When You Die If You Aren't Religious?

30/12/2013 12:32 | Updated 22 May 2015

So how do you explain what happens when you die to a pre-schooler when you aren't religious?

Last night at dinner time, I found myself facing one of those questions which most parents dread. Imagine the scene, the four of us sat around the dinner table talking about our days when the conversation moved onto Grandad's dog. The conversation went a little bit like this:

MissB: What happened to Grandad's old dog, mummy?

Me: She died because she got too old, darling

MissB: Yes, but what happened to her?

Me: (without thinking) They buried her in the garden

... Silence

Me: Ooh, I have ice cream in the freezer. Who wants some?

So yes, that was a bit of a balls up but what exactly am I supposed to say? You see I'm not religious and I don't know what happens when you die. I know what physically happens of course but I don't really want my children to be having nightmares about being burnt or buried in the ground. I'm hoping MissB didn't really take in my stupid answer above and the ice cream diversion worked.

It didn't even occur to me to say anything about heaven and looking back now, this at least would have been a nicer concept to answer with. The idea of heaven is appealing; somewhere you will meet everybody again and that dying isn't the end. I am starting to see the appeal of religion and the comfort that it can give people about dying now. But when you don't believe it, should you tell your childreb about heaven just to make the thought of dying easier for them to handle?

If something happened to me, maybe it would be comforting for them to believe in a place called heaven where they would see me again, rather than just thinking of me buried in the ground somewhere. Maybe for the sake of my children, I should talk about heaven. Does it have to religious though? Could I still talk about heaven but not necessarily in a religious sense? Or is it hypocritical to use "heaven" as an answer?

Couldn't we all just go to a nice non-religious happy place when we die and live happily ever after up there? A place at the end of the rainbow maybe? What do other non-religious parents do? I'm eager to hear any of your suggestions as I feel this subject will be coming up at the dinner table again in the near future and this time I want to be prepared.

I live in Durham with my wonderful husband MrB and my beautiful daughter MissB and son MasterB. We are a family of vegetarians and both our children are being brought up as vegetarian until they are old enough to choose for themselves.

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