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How to Talk to Kids About a Deceased Loved One They Never Met

My dad was the best dad. And I don’t say that lightly. So when he passed away unexpectedly my sophomore year of college, it rocked my world. I never imagined my own kiddos would grow up without knowing my dad, their grandpa. And once I had my first baby (who, ironically enough, was due on the ninth anniversary of my dad’s death), the full weight of this hit me—hard. My son would never meet his grandpa.

Being a religious person, I believe that my dad and kids will meet in heaven someday. But I hope that day is a loooong way off. Since having my first child six years ago, I struggle with the balance of passing along my dad’s memory to my kids without sounding morbid or depressed. 

My kids deserve to know about their grandpa. He was one of my most favorite people. And they should know why. But how do I do that when they’ve never met him?

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A photo wall in our dining room helps keep my dad’s memory alive.

I have pictures of my dad around my home.

I would rather decorate my home with personal photos than designer art, so pictures fill the walls of my house. There are pictures of every important person in my family’s life. And some of those pictures are of my dad. I never bring attention to my dad’s photos. However, over time, my two oldest kids have noticed the pictures and asked questions. This opens the door for me to talk about my dad.

Another way I’ve kept his memory alive is by describing my dad to my kids.

They don’t know what he was like, so I tell them funny stories about their grandpa. Sweet stories. Inspiring stories. Or just stories that explain the kind of man he was. My kids know random things about him—like he loved the sunshine and being outdoors. He would try pretty much anything—sports, food, you name it—at least once. He was addicted to coffee. He did a triathlon when I was in seventh grade. Random grandpa facts have made him more personal to my kids.

Once in a blue moon one of my sons asks a question about my dad.

I usually don’t know what made them think of the question, but I love that they ask. It’s like a little gift because it tells me they are thinking about him and want to know more. And since he was such a fantastic person, I love being able to answer their questions about him.

It’s very important to me that my kids know about their grandpa. I also want to make sure that we don’t memorialize him in an unhealthy way. And that’s why I talk about all our loved ones—because we have been blessed with some amazing people in our lives. But I certainly don’t want my kids deprived of knowing what kind of man raised their mom.

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4 Responses to How to Talk to Kids About a Deceased Loved One They Never Met

  1. Mimi April 28, 2017 at 7:57 pm #

    Loved hearing about your dad. I wish I had met him too and would love to hear more about his life. I do know one thing for sure about him….he and your mom raised a young lady that I am so very proud of calling my daughter-in-law (love!)

    • Grace Clausing
      Grace Clausing May 1, 2017 at 10:26 pm #

      Thanks, Mimi!

  2. Mom May 1, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    I’ve thought about your blog a lot because I had this same desire…..having you and your brother know my dad as more than someone in your past. My dad died when you were 12 days old. He got to hold you, Grace, but never knew about your brother. One of my greatest regrets is that you both didn’t get to know him. You would have meant the world to him.
    It’s the same with you. But it’s OK. Your dad prayed for both of you…..daily, getting up at 5 am for personal devotions for as long as I can remember. You embraced the faith that was so important to him and the answer to his greatest prayer. You inherited his sense of humor and love for the outdoors, family and a job well-done. So, while I know you will continue to share stories (making them come alive in your gifted way), also know that the kiddos will know him because they know you.

    • Grace Clausing
      Grace Clausing May 1, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

      Well Mom, you made me cry! I’m trying to live up to my Dad’s way of life…but it’s not quite the same as the real deal. He was a very special man. 🙂

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