Family & Culture Featured

Explaining Death To a Toddler


Courtesy of Dan

By Mami Raquel

On May 5th, I lost one of the most influential women in my life, my great grandmother, Mamaita. Although her passing was expected the process was grueling. Dayana [my almost 3 year old] would go with me to visit Mamaita while she was in hospice care at home. My husband and I debated whether we should allow her to go in but it was Dayana who insisted that she needed to see Mamaita. Every time she went in to see her great-great grandmother she would come out asking me tons of questions. “Is Mamaita sleeping?”, “why is her mouth open?”, “will she ever wake up?”, “why is she snoring so loud?”, “can she hear me?” and the most common and my least favorite “why doesn’t she talk back to me?”.  I remember stepping outside and sitting under a tree realizing this would be the first [of many] difficult moments I will have to walk my children through in life. I vividly recall questioning my capability to do so since I was taking Mamaita’s passing worse than Dayana however I reminded myself that this would be one of those times that I would be a mother before anything else.

The day she passed we were not at the house. I received the dreaded phone call at 3:03am and couldn’t sleep any more that morning. I came out to the couch and pondered how my conversation with Dayana would go. Would she understand? Would she react? Or would she cry? All these thoughts ran through my head and I was a little concerned with how she would take it considering how close they were and how emotional Dayana could be. I never expected the response I got from Dayana which was “haha, mommy you’re so silly. Mamaita is in her room sleeping!” When I reiterated that Mamaita had gone up to heaven to join Papaito and Jesus, she reassured me she was in her room sleeping. This must have been some sort of childlike denial, because she was not budging.  I didn’t insist any further and just dropped the conversation. The next day when we went to Mamaita’s house she insisted we go see her, I sat down with her and reminded her where Mamaita was now. Again came the denial which led me to take her into the room where she last saw Mamaita. As I approached the door you saw her eyes light up, anxiously waiting to see her beloved great-grandma and when she saw an empty bed her words were “aw man, she IS in heaven!” Her head dropped and her whole demeanor changed. My little Dayana was in one way or another mourning Mamaita and there was nothing I could do to make it better for her. It has taken Dayana a good two weeks and a trip to Disney to “forget” about the deaths and be a child again. I never thought this could affect a toddler so harshly.

This experience has been very hard on our family and on my Dayana. We lost Mamaita and Papaito within 2 months apart and it’s hurt badly. Although I assumed death wouldn’t be any easy thing for a child, I never thought it would interrupt their daily living as it did to Dayana.

Has your toddler ever gone through a similar experience? If so, what techniques did you use to help your toddler cope?


Raquel is wifey to her high school sweetheart & a stay at home mommie to 2 beautiful divas, She is completely devoted to her “lil’ familia” and enjoys quiet evenings at home. Some of her favorite past times includes listening to music, cooking and couponing. Raquel has a Master’s degree in Marriage & Family Therapy. She is very passionate about her profession and thoroughly enjoys making a difference in people’s lives. Make sure to check out Raquel’s blog for your dose of krayzeeness at



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