After waking up, I bring the kids downstairs carrying them both. On a typical morning, I drop Lincoln, unlock the front door, and let Link open the door to let the dog out to go potty. Today, I dropped him, didn't unlock the door, and that was when he asked about Beau...
I had thought about this conversation before having to have it, which gave me an advantage because I knew the words I wanted to use. The big thing for me was saying "died". It hurt me to say it, but Lincoln needed to hear that Beau died, not passed away or was gone or left us or went to heaven. Those later phrases have no finite understanding. They're gentler, yes, but also hard to grasp. The simpler wording the better and at the end of the day, Beau had died.
Lincoln is still young and I don't think he fully understands that he'll never get to see Beau again. Sure, in the moment he understood that Beau wasn't at home, but tomorrow, the next day? These timelines aren't exactly understandable for a toddler his age. But each day, I fully expect him to ask me about Beau a bunch of times and each time I will give him the same answers. It will be painful for me, but this repetition and question-asking will only help Lincoln understand death better and the finality of it.
I want to add that it's okay if your toddler isn't outwardly sad. Like I mentioned above, he doesn't really get that Beau will never be with him again. However, it's also okay to show emotion. When I was talking to Link later in the day, I got upset. I simply explained that I was sad Beau was missing out on our activity and wouldn't get to play with us anymore. I told Lincoln it's okay to be sad because we love and miss him. Lincoln comforted me and moved right along with his playing.