Mary, thank you for raising up the language we use. “In a better place” and “no more suffering” Adults use these for their comfort. Children may have different thoughts about this and, you are right, this needs to be explored with them. What does a “better place” mean for them and where is that? Helping children express their thoughts and listening to their words and understanding what they mean for them, leaves them the freedom to develop their own way of coping. Mr. Rogers shares that using the explanation “They are asleep” is not good because this could cause a child to be afraid to go to sleep.
I agree with your thought on “worship”. When I was a child, I could not wait for “worship” to be over so I could be with my friends. What you say about a child thinking that heaven is not a safe place is true for all of what we talking about, “more digging to find out where that (or anything that is expressed) comes from.”
Your insight to the World Trade Center deaths is helpful. It opens another layer to the importance of working with children and even adults where they are at and helping them explore and find meaning for themselves.