L.H. asks from New Alexandria, PA on August 28, 2008
Helping Children Deal with Death and Dying Relatives
I just found out yesterday that my dad may have cancer. He is 81 years old. I don't know what if any treatment they can give him. I wasn't planning on telling my children about it until the diagnosis was sure. My youngest daughter, seven years old, overheard my husband and I discussing it. She heard cancer and it freaked her out. She came to me crying and is sure he is going to die. She told her next oldest sister about it, and her comment was "Well, I guess he will be bald." She knows that cancer treatments cause your hair to fall out. She didn't seem to be affected by it very much.
My grandfather died when I was twelve. I had no idea that he had cancer until shortly before he died. When I found out, I thought he would have treatment and live for many more years. I didn't know that my parents had known for a year, and that it was terminal. I was devasted by his death and the fact that my parents hadn't prepared me beforehand for the eventuality. I decided that when I had kids, I wouldn't hid stuff like that from them. I want to help them to prepare and cope with it.
It is hard, when I don't know all the facts yet, and I am still numb with the shock of it. My dad and I were very close when I was young. It is hard to help the kids when I am afraid that I will lose it and start crying. Both my parents are old and in ill health. My dad has lost most of his short term memory. I know that they will die someday, but it has always been off there in the future. They may still live a long time, but maybe not.
How do you help your kids deal with these issues, when it is hard to talk about it to them, being so close at hand? He may not even have cancer, but sooner or later both my parents and mother-in-law will die and kids will have to learn to cope.
So What Happened?™
The tests they did on my dad came back negative for the suspected cancer. He is doing much better and is off his narcotic pain killers. He is still suffering some pain and they have not yet figured out why. Thank you to everyone who answered my post. I have a lot of things to think about and discuss with my kids.
D.S. answers from Allentown on August 29, 2008
Here are some web sites:
Hope this helps. Good luck. D.
C.S. answers from Sharon on August 28, 2008
I'm so sorry to hear about what you are going through.
I had to do this with my 2 year old in April when my dayd unexpectedly died! I know that it's different for a 2 and 7 year old, but I found that if you're honest, that's the best. My daughter only knows that Papa was sick in the hospital, and is now in the clouds with the angels! She'll know more when she gets older, but for now, that works!
Like I said...honesty. That's all I can give as advice on this one!!
Good luck, and I hope that all goes well.
L.G. answers from Philadelphia on August 29, 2008
I am so very sorry to hear of your painful situation. I have a book to recommend. My Mother-In-Law found it for me a few years ago when my grandfather was dying of pancreatic cancer. My oldest son was 2 1/2 and I was at a loss as to what to do. I ended up letting it go since he was so young but this book has helped me since. It covers all ages and any situation you can come up with in terms of loss. (from pet to still born to close family member to terminal illness)
How Do We Tell the Children (A Step-By-Step Guide for Helping Children 2-Teen Cope When Someone Dies) by Dan Schaefr Ph.D., and Christine Lyons
I hope this helps in during this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
1 mom found this helpful
A.D. answers from Philadelphia on August 29, 2008
You do not mention how old your children are, but there is a lovely story by Leo Buscaglia called The Fall of Freddy the Leaf. I bought it for my cousin-once-removed's son when his grandfather, my great uncle, passed away. It basically highlights how death is a part of life through the changing of the seasons. I hope it helps your family through this chapter in your lives and opens up conversations.
Best Wishes - A.
1 mom found this helpful
L.C. answers from Philadelphia on August 29, 2008
My heart definitely goes out to you. I was and now again in the same position. My children are 3,7,and15 at home. Last year my Aunt was to live with us. She had cancer and the kids knew she was sick. She did lose her hair and was in a lot of pain during this time. I had to explain to the little ones that she hurts and might cry or say "ouch" very loud so don't be scared. My aunt had to go to hospice and visited almost everyday. I invited any questions. My 6yr old at the time asked if she was going to die. I told him that God wants us with him after so long and sometimes when people get very very sick, he makes them better by having them with him. When she did pass, I told him that God wanted her to be an angel on that day. He cried and said he would miss her. Now, not even a year later, my mom has cancer and is going thru all of the treatments. Her hair is gone and she is very weak. Her prognosis looks good. Of course the kids worry. I had to tell them that it is not the same as their Aunts and she will be ok. I guess the best thing is to be honest. Even if the kids don't quite understand, they trust in what you say and feel safe with the answers.
My prayers go to you and your family.
J.J. answers from Sharon on August 28, 2008
I have always told my children that oneday everyone has to die and go to heaven(than they become angels and watch over us)I also explained that when you die people have a funeral and than most are buried in the ground in a cemetary.
It also has helped with having pets that have passed.We lost over 5year old cousin last year and that was very hard but everytime my kids see a frog or rainbow they say Payton is watching out for us.
I know there are books out there that help tell children about dealth..
Sorry i'm no help.
S. answers from Pittsburgh on August 29, 2008
I am so sorry to hear about your father. When I was young,I lost both my parents and 2 grandparents. I was never told those I loved were sick and would most likely die. I was very angry when they died and thought that I had done something wrong. I think that if the situation had been explained to me, things would have been completely different. I think you need to be honest with your kids and answer the questions they may have. You may find that they are very understanding and sympathetic. You may also find that they may help you to better cope with things and in time, deal with the grief of losing someone you love.
C.H. answers from Allentown on August 28, 2008
the library has some great books for kids of diff ages, can't recall the names, my kids had to reaxd them 2 years ago when their dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Be honest but overtell them.
there are support groups for family members and kids. Talk to local hospital.
A.B. answers from Pittsburgh on August 28, 2008
I'm sorry you have to go through this. I would check with the American Cancer Society. They have lots of information on helping families to cope. There are also books available, written on child's age level, I'm sure the ACS can help you find those as well. HUGGS!!
F.B. answers from Harrisburg on August 28, 2008
Be honest with your children. Talk to them about death and about how you feel. It is ok for you to cry in front of them. It will show them how sad you are and that it is ok for them to be sad too.