Print Sun, Mar 08, 2015 - 12:42 AM
When my mother passed away 20 years ago. my children were 3 and 5.
My father (still around!) was and is an agnostic, my mother was atheist, I was and still am an atheist, and my wife was and is...I'll say "agnostic."
We told my kids pretty honestly what was happening. Grandma was very sick, the doctors are doing the best that they can to make her better again. Grandma was undergoing chemotherapy to try and kill off the cancer, and it will make her very weak. No discussions, EVER, of "Grandma will go to heaven" or that she would become an angel, or that she would be looking down at them from heaven, or even that they might meet her again in heaven. my kids KNEW about "heaven," they certainly had heard it discussed, heard it on the television, heard it from friends, but they also knew that none of us believed in it.
I honestly cannot remember if either of them asked us, "but will grandma be going to heaven?" I can honestly tell you that if they had, we would have gently told them, "No, we don't think that's going to happen."
What DID happen was they they spent time with her, held her hand, hugged her when they could, and talked with her. My son, who was 3 at the time, understood the gravity of the situation, and was very mature in the way he spoke with her and showed her his love.
Now they are 23 and 25, and they have both grown into amazing young adults. Both tending towards humanism and away from theism. Both pretty reasonable, pretty rational people. I continue to believe that the way we dealt with their grandmother's death was the right way to do it--it was certainly the most honest way we could do it!