4 Ways to Explain Death to Your Kids When You’re an Atheist Parent
Where are we going when we die? What happens to our bodies, our souls or our essence? Almost every religion has an answer to this age-old question. But what if you not adhere to a religion? Parents who don’t believe in one or more gods may struggle to answer this question – and children ask all the questions. So how, exactly, can you console your child for the death of someone special? If you don’t believe in heaven, do you keep telling your child that grandpa is in a better place?
It is difficult to discuss death and dying with children, whether you add religion or leave it out. A death in the family will surely be a traumatic experience for any child, especially if it is a loved one. Without streets of gold and rainbow bridges, you might not know what to say about death when your little one comes asking.
Still, what happens to us after we die is a pretty big question that needs a thoughtful answer…and that answer depends on the parent. There are, however, some very nice answers. If you’re at or near that crossover conversation with your child, keep reading for more information on what to say.
Some atheists wonder if “what happens after we die” might be an entirely unnecessary consideration. The movies end. End of games. End of songs. There is not always a follow-up… and that’s normal.
“Death is a natural process, and it happens to everyone at some point,” says Grace L., a hospice nurse in Tampa, Fla., with three children. “Sometimes it happens before people are ready, but even then we don’t have to be afraid; there are doctors, nurses and doulas to help us through times like this. We live our lives safe and happy, knowing full well that one day it will end, and that’s okay, and I truly believe that we die and there’s nothing left, and my children don’t. have ever disputed this reality or this perspective.”
Another mom, Francez C., of Cincinnati, Ohio, agrees. His advice where to say and do when it’s time for that convo? “The body has stopped working due to illness or accident. People come together to share memories of the deceased. You just stop at ‘they were buried/cremated’. There’s no had questions about what happens after we die, but if they ask, I’ll just say I don’t know.”
Laura B., from eastern Ohio, says young children who aren’t raised in religious homes don’t really consider an “after” because they haven’t been told about it. “We’re talking about how the person was super old, in a tragic accident, or had a specific disease (so they don’t think they’ll die with every cold or flu). Then how they’re buried in a cemetery where living people can go to visit their graves to help remember them At five and eight years old, they never asked what happens after the body is buried or thought to ask where we go after we die because they have no idea that other people believe in some kind of afterlife of any kind.”
“We return our energy to the earth.”
Many atheist parents find that bringing the subject back to nature can help.
“I always look at things from the perspective of energy that cannot be created or destroyed,” shares Kerry M., a mom from Salem, Massachusetts. “Once someone dies, their energy lives in nature and their memory lives with us. Every person, plant and animal alive today is here because other people died in the past.”
While this feels beautiful in its cyclical nature, it is also incredibly scientific. Think about how dead plants turn into compost, which then nourishes new plants and brings them to life.
“We live in the dreams of our loved ones.”
Another beautiful way to talk about death without bringing a glorious depiction of an afterlife? Talking about how our spirit lives in the dreams of our loved ones.
“I believe that after we die our energy is reabsorbed into the world,” another mom shared. “Specifically, in our loved ones. Dreams are where we go to live. Our energy finds a way into our loved ones and into their dreams. And then when they die, the cycle continues. That’s why dreams are difficult to achieve. interpret, I think. “Heaven” is just us living inside those we love.”
“We leave behind our memories and our global contributions.”
“I taught my daughters that when you die, you ‘live’ in two very important ways,” says Morgan P., of Fort Collins, Colorado. “First, a loved one lives on in our memories and in the stories we share with others. Most importantly, however, we live on through the impact we have on the world and the good we let’s leave behind. The things we do now (good or bad), while living, can last a lifetime.”
It’s not only a solid way to honor someone who has passed away and give your kids something sweet to remember, but it’s also a great way to raise kids who want to do good and leave a positive and lasting impact on the world. around them.