Where is my person? What is heaven?

Children tend to have an ongoing and ever-present relationship with their person that died. They like to find the place where they feel they can make a connection with a loved one. Some children think their mom or dad is in the breeze that goes by, a butterfly in the sky, or that they really visit them in a dream or vision. Others find comfort and meaning in napping on Mom's bed, visiting the cemetery, going to the street where Dad died, or sitting in Grandpas favorite chair. Visiting these places can be reassuring and important in maintaining their connection with their special person.

Research suggests that a majority of children place their person that died in a place called heaven. They may also think their person is in the ground, is coming back home, or is living with God and the angels at the same time. When children ask questions about heaven, it is a good clue that they are thinking about it. Asking them to explain how they see heaven allows them to share their images and beliefs.

Heaven is the most popular place in which kids and adults place their friends, relatives, and pets after they die. Even pop culture has songs about seeing you in heaven, heaven is in your eyes and heavenly angels. Most religions talk about a place called heaven where people live with God and this imagery can be very comforting.

Marc (12): a case study

Marc was 12 when his dad got killed in a plane crash. They played sports together all of the time. Dad was the coach of his basketball team. After his dads death Marc played many of his games thinking of his dad. He was so happy when he won the award for the best athlete in his school - a big gold trophy with his name engraved on it. But he missed his dad being at the ceremony to see him receive it.

Where do you think Dad is? he asked his mother. Mom replied, Im not sure. Sometimes I feel he is with me when I hear a bird chirp. Dad loved birds . Sometimes I talk with him at the cemetery. Marc decided to visit the cemetery the next day, and took his trophy to show him. Sitting by Dads gravestone, he told him all about the sports ceremony: It was great, but I missed you.

Then he sat quietly for a long time. When he got home Marc told his mom he finally felt at peace - as if Dad was really with him for the first time since he died. Yet he wondered if that was a strange way to feel.

Is it OK to feel like my dad is really at the cemetery?

Yes, it is OK. The cemetery looks like a meaningful place for you. Its a spot you have found where you feel you can be with your father in some way. Some children go to the cemetery, sit in Grandpas favorite chair, or some even nap on Moms bed. Others create conversations like you did or leave special pictures and flowers. You seemed so happy to sit by Dads gravestone and share your sports ceremony and trophy with him. Thats nice.

Even though the cemetery feels peaceful, I still cant believe my dad is dead. 1 didnt say goodbye. Can I go to the spot where Dad was killed?

I really understand why you want to go to the location where the plane crash happened. These places can have personal and important meaning. Let your mom or I know when you feel ready to take this trip. It can be upsetting when you dont get the chance to say goodbye, especially when a sudden death occurs away from home. Bringing something for your dad, retracing the details of the incident, and just being at the site where Dad died creates a unique moment to feel his presence and say goodbye. Maybe the visit would make his death feel more real for you. You could even write Dad a goodbye letter.

Sally (6)

My aunt Jenny told me Mom had gone on a long trip.Why didnt she take me with her? And how could she go on a long trip if she died of cancer?

Sally, I know your aunt Jenny told you that your mom went on a long trip and Dad had explained Mom died from a disease called cancer. Aunt Jenny may have thought you were too young to understand the truth about Mom getting very ill and dying. I know it is confusing to get two different answers and not know which one to believe.

Maybe Aunt Jenny thought it would make you feel better to think your mom was away on a trip, but she didnt realize it would make you wonder about things. Your mom didnt go on a long trip, so she couldnt take you with her. She died of cancer. That is really what happened.

My mom died in the hospital. I am so sad. I am always looking for her. Is Mom a butterfly that goes by? Is she saying hello?

Thats a good question. What do you think?

I think every time I see a butterfly, it is my mom saying hello. Is that OK?

Absolutely. Many adults and children believe their person that died is with them in some way. It can be a bird that flies by or even a passing breeze. No one really knows the answer. I think its a very nice way to think of your mom. Would you like to wear a butterfly necklace to remind you of your mom? It might help you to feel your mom is with you.

If my mom is with me, is she watching over me all the time? That could be very embarrassing.

Watching over you can just mean feeling like your moms love and caring is with you. It doesnt mean that she is looking at you all the time and seeing everything you say and do.

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