Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 20 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

“Mom, when am I going to die?” How to answer truthfully and hopefully



Mathilde De Robien - published on 10/14/18

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus helps us form the difficult words.

Sometimes after the death of a loved one, children, even at a very young age, might start asking questions about death, particularly their own. They want to know if they, too, will die. We do our best to tell them the truth indirectly, probably dancing around the issue a bit and using some gentle euphemisms, but they want a straight answer: “But when?” Given their age and comprehension, if we’re smart, we won’t try sharing with them the latest statistics from the CDC on life expectancy. We’ll just have to decide between a reassuring: “Not for a long time, sweetie!” or the harsh reality: “God only knows!”

Don’t hide the truth

Psychologists all agree on one point: it is important to not hide the truth from children. If they ask the question, first of all we must understand where it is coming from. This is where we need to take the time to listen and to be frank with our answers. Our credibility is at stake. Their questions about death are a testament to a need to know, but also to be reassured. Children will be less worried if we tell them the truth than if we leave them in the dark.

Lessons from the young Thérèse

Christians are lucky to be able to give a reply full of hope concerning the question of death. Death is the gateway to eternal life. It’s this faith that St. Thérèse de Lisieux demonstrated when she wrote to Abbe Maurice Bellière in June 1897 (she died September 30th 1897): “Dear little Brother, I would like to tell you many things that I understand now that I am at the door of eternity; but I am not dying, I am entering into Life.”

It was this same intuition she had as a young girl, when, in a surge of tenderness, she would innocently wish for her parents’ death. Thérèse quotes a letter that her mother, Zélie Martin, wrote about her when she was just age four: “Baby is a little imp; she’ll kiss me and at the same time wish me to die. ‘Oh, how I wish you would die, dear little Mother!’ When I scold her she answers: ‘It is because I want you to go to heaven, and you say we must die to get there!’ She wishes the same for her Father in her outbursts of affection for him.” Thérèse learnt from a most tender age that our true homeland is heaven. And thanks to this faith, she didn’t have any fear of death. Could we, as parents, instill a little of this confidence in our children and help relieve their worries and concerns?


Read more:
How to talk to kids sensitively and truthfully about tragedies


Read more:
What you should tell your child about death


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.