Talking to Your Kids About Death and Purgatory

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, more commonly known as All Souls Day, has passed us by. But your prayers for the holy souls should not! In fact, the Catholic Church observes the entire month of November as the Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

If you have young children or grandchildren, it’s a golden opportunity to speak about the “last things” in an age-appropriate way. It’s a way to help our kids to become familiar with the concept of death and the importance of praying for the dead. Here are a few ways you can begin to do just that.

Holy Souls Jar

A couple of years ago, I grabbed an old canning jar and a bunch of popsicle sticks. On each stick, I wrote the name of a family member or friend who had died and was in need of our prayers. If you have young children, you know the appeal that a simple thing like a jar full of popsicle sticks has. They love to play with them and grab a stick or two or three out of the jar. When they do, we seize the opportunity to read the name and pray for that person’s soul.

We pray the Eternal Rest prayer, which my 4 year old can now pray along with me:

Eternal rest grant unto him/her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him/her. May his/her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Talk About Death

Pack up your family and visit the local cemetery and pray for the souls of all those who are buried there. This is not only a great way to gain graces for the holy souls, but an opportunity for our kids to begin to contemplate death and eternal life.

Walk down the aisles, reading the names of the people buried there, and pray for them each by name. Offer simple explanations of the last things for your kids when they ask. It might go something like this: “After someone dies, we have a funeral Mass to pray for their soul and then their body is buried in a cemetery where they wait for Jesus to come again. When Jesus returns, their body will be reunited with their soul. Isn’t that cool?”

Or, “Our soul needs to be perfectly clean before it can be with Jesus in heaven. Purgatory is a place where our soul is prepared for heaven. We pray for the souls there to be ready to be with Jesus forever.”

They won’t understand the depth of the concepts you are explaining to them, but it’s a great way to introduce these things to kids from a young age. If we speak to our kids about death and eternal life, they will be less likely to be scared of it. They might even see that death is just the beginning. After all, our souls were not made for this world!

“As we enter Heaven, we will see them, so many of them, coming toward us and thanking us. We will ask who they are and they will say: ‘A poor soul you prayed for in purgatory.’” – Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.