Terminally Ill Father

Updated on October 27, 2006
M.L. asks from Ansonia, CT
17 answers

How do you prepare children for the death of their grandfather? My dad was diagnosed with stage 4 prostrate cancer and ostioscaroma. He has 15 weeks of radiation to go through but the doctors said it would be a miracle if gets through it. My father is 84 years old. I'm just wondering how to explain things to my kids and how to prepare them for what is to come.

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J.L.

answers from New York on

Hi M. --
Will Hospice be involved? If so they have people trained to come and help children deal with this issue. I hospiced my grandmother in my home and my children were apart of it. When asked they will tell me that their Badka is their angle watching them. They were young my son was 7 and my daughter was 5. Just be honest with them and explaine it in words they will undersatnd.
J.

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C.S.

answers from Bangor on

My heart felt empathy and sympathy as well as my prayers go out to you and your family.
My children were younger than yours when they lost my father (10 mos, 2yrs, & 3yrs) What helped the two older ones was a starry twilight and the releasing of three baloons to grandpa so he'd know how much they loved and would miss him and "not be sad or lonely in heaven" (to quote the 2 year old). They are now 17 3/4 yrs (with a 6 wk old daughter), 19yrs, and 20yrs old and can still reminise about that winter night they gave grandpa their love and baloons.

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K.S.

answers from Boston on

I am so sorry about your father, I know how that is. When I was 14 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she went through a mastectomy, chemo and radiation and then she was cancer free until last May(10 years later). She was rediagnosed with breast cancer last May but it had come back in her bone, liver and lungs. They said she could live years with treatment and went for chemo every friday along with taking all sorts of medicine. My mother just passed away in July of this year, the cancer spread rapidly in her liver and it was too aggressive to stop. My mother was only 62 years old. I come from a family of 7 and my mother had 12 grandchildren. Ages are 14,12,10,10,6,6,4 ,3,2,4months,3months, and 2months. I know my sisters found help in some books that they found for children. Some of the titles were "I miss you, a first look at death" by Pat Thomas, "Saying Goodbye: A Special Farewell to Mama Nkwelle" by Ifeoma Onyefulu and "The Best Day of the Week" by Hannah Cole. If I learn of anymore that they used I will let you know. I hope this helps and if you need to talk you can email me.

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P.D.

answers from Providence on

M. I have never gone through that but i will keep you and your kids in my prayers..If it was children i would tell them that he is going to home to be with God. He wont be sick no more and will be watching over them and be in there hearts always.

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W.D.

answers from Boston on

I'm very sorry about your dad.. we went thru this when my mother in law died a few years ago. My daughter was 5. We just sat her down and explained that gramma was sick, and not sick like a cold, but sick that dr's can't fix it. she died and now she is in heaven and feels great. she's not on oxygen, she's not in pain and she's very happy. she watching over you like a guardian angel and is happy to see her mom and relatives or pets who have passed. My daughter got up and walked away at that point.. which is FINE.. don't over do it iwth your 4 yr old. answer questions, but don't go too into it.. your older kids will want to know more. they are old enough to handle it. just be honest and tell them it's ok to cry and feel whatever it is they are feeling. good luck... and oh yeah, cry with them! that way they'll feel like it's ok to cry and they'll also feel a connection to you about it. don't hold back..

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M.

answers from New York on

Sorry to hear about your father. I lost my mother (age 75) to oestiosarcoma in 2005. Fortunatley, my daughter was only 1 at the time so there was no need to explain anything. You are fortunate that your children all got to know your father and he was able to enjoy them.
I don't know if you are religious, but if so, you can explain to your children that their grandfather will be going to a beautiful place where there isn't any more pain and hurt. It will be harder to explain to them why he is so sick. It may be even too hard for them to see him while he's very sick. Don't force the children to be there. Bring them to see him, but have arrangements to have them leave after a short time while you stay. I personally do not believe in sheltering children from death b/c I think that will only make them become more frightened of it. I also don't think the children need to see their grandfather suffer.

Im sure none of this is easy for you either. Please know that there are many of us who faced similar situations and are always here for support. I kept a journal...Writing down my feelings/emotions helped me get through my mom's experience.
I hope this helped a bit....it's hard to type w/ my 2 little ones trying to "help"

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J.B.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi M.,

I'm so sorry for what you are going through. I lost my father several years ago and it's very hard. I also lost my 1st husband to cancer when my two oldest children were just 2 and 3. The way I delt with is was to have the children spend as much time with him as possible, so he could tell them stories...all of his stories. We took A LOT of pictures and he wrote them both letters for when they are adults. When he died I wasn't sure how to tell them, them being so young. So the next night, I took them outside and found a star. I told them that was where Daddy was and whenever they wanted to talk to him all they had to do was go outside and find a star. I wasn't sure if it helped until my own father died. At that point my son was 5 and my nephew (who was very close to my father) was 4. After I explained my fathers death to my son, I realized my sister was having a hard time explaining his death to my nephew. My son went over, grabbed his cousins hand and let him outside. My sister and I listened at the door as my little man explained to his cousin how he could talk to his Grandfather any time he wanted to, all he had to do was find a star. So even though I wasn't sure...it helped him.

I don't know if this will help...but I hope it does.

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J.K.

answers from Buffalo on

So sorry to hear about your Father. My Mom passed away from Breast cancer last September and my Daughter (5) was a wreck. Hospice offers a couselor to come and talk with your child weekly. This helped my dd and me in dealing with her loss and how she processed it. There are also a lot of good book for them out there. Good luck.

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M.C.

answers from New York on

M.,

I just started talking to the girls that their papa was very sick and he might die. I was very straight forward with them. I explained that death means he won't be around when we go visit gma, But he will be alive in our hearts. they still talk about gpa nad how sick he was and that he has died. I'm sure there are books at the library that could help you. But my best advice is just be straight forward, let them see you cry and how sad you are.

i'm here for you

hugs

micki

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J.R.

answers from New York on

Let me start by saying that I'm sorry to hear about your father. I lost my dad 5 years ago to heart disease and my grandmother 4 years ago to the same. My son wasn't born at the time of either and I don't know how religious you are, but I told my daughter that Jesus spoke to Papa and Gram and told them that if they wanted, they could go live with him and they wouldn't be sick anymore. They would be happy and healthy and they could watch her grow up from heaven and they would smile all the time. I also told her that Jesus said they would have beautiful wings like angels and that when she prayed, she could ask Jesus to let them visit her in her dreams, that way she could see them every night. My daughter is 8 now and to this day, every night when she prays, she asks for a dream to see her Papa and Gram. Good luck to you. If you need to talk to to just vent your anger and sadness, please email me ([email protected]____.com).

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C.D.

answers from Buffalo on

First off Im so very sorry to hear about your father. I lost my father 11 years ago when my son was 3 just about going on 4 years old. His gramma and Papa were very close to him. My son didn't understand why he couldn't SEE his papa anymore. I told him that papa was sick and has gone to live in heaven with Jesus where he wouldn't feel pain or suffer anymore. But I also told him at night when the stars are shining bright that one of them stars was papa and that he could look up into the sky and the star that was shining brightest was his papa. That seemed to help him because he would always look and say hi to his papa. I hope this helps a little for you. Again Im so very sorry to hear about your father.

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B.G.

answers from Lewiston on

Dear M.,
First, let me express my sincere condolences for you and your family. Preparing for the death of a parent is never easy. I commend you for wanting to prepare your children as well as possible, but don't forget about yourself and your own grief.

Helping your children understand and cope with the loss of their Grandfather will help you too. There are LOTS of children's books (and adult books for YOU) on the subject of death and dying. I recommend that you visit your local library or favorite book store. If you don't find what you need, ASK. They will be able to help you find the right resources and order or borrow them from other libraries/book sellers.

Also, in the mean time, make new memories with Grampa. Visit as much as you can; talk on the phone; TAKE PICTURES;
that may seem awkward at first, but later, you will have those tokens to cherish. Make the most of your old memories and HIS history too. Ask him to tell favorite stories of his glory days, so that you can remember them when he is gone. Knowing that he will be a cherished memory may make his passing easier for HIM too.

Blessed Be,
Bridget

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D.

answers from New York on

There are several books out there for little kids that explain death and heaven (I don't know your belief's). Go to your local bookstore and look around in the kids section. You might find something that drives the point across without being to scary or harsh.

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K.D.

answers from New York on

This is natural and expected at the end of all life, so in everything you do, try to show them that this isn't a shock, that you will all live through this, that your father's memory will live on, and to "remember the good times". Be happy in the time you are with him, smile a lot, try to seem at peace so that both your father and the kids can be at peace. When your father is towards the end, be sure to tell him that it's okay to go, when he wants to, that you will all be fine, and everything's "set". Don't let him think he's got unfinished business so he'll suffer along thinking he's got stuff to do. When he's tired, he needs to just leave. Fighting to stay alive is hard work when all else has failed. I just went through this with my Aunt, and it was difficult, in a hospice, she lingered for over a week semi-conscious. Remember, even at the end, even when they can't move or talk or even blink an eye, that they CAN hear you. Always talk TO your Dad when in his presence, don't talk to others in the room with him like he's not there, even if he's quiet. (they taught me this at the hospice, that it confuses people who are laying there, when they can hear a conversation taking place but it's not for them, makes them try to fight to get up to converse). Getting back to the kids though, they have to know that crying is okay and normal, losing someone you love is terribly sad, but is a normal life thing. There is nothing to fear, you don't want them to be afraid of death, which will ultimately claim us all! You will be strong and hold hands and be there together to enjoy the time with your father while you still can, and he will live in each of your hearts and souls, so he'll never REALLY be gone, you just won't SEE him anymore. Good luck to you, it's a horrible time to lose a parent (I already lost both my older sister AND my father, so I do know the gaping hole in your life!!!) but you know he wants you to enjoy your life and keep doing what it is you do to enjoy yourself and enrich your children's lives.... best wishes to you....

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J.F.

answers from New York on

M.,
I can't tell you how to prepare as I dont think there is an actual way, my mom passed 6 years ago and it was right in the middle of my divorce, I think my daughter is what got me through it all, but as for preparing I would just try to spend quality time with him and the boys while you can, because that is what you want them to remember. My daughter barely remembers my mom so I write down things, stories about her for my daughter to share with me so that she can get to know my mom through me. Have your boys talk to your dad about things he did in his life, those stories will be treasures and held onto more then the sickness. Keep a journal of the stories if you can, I wish luck and I am so sorry for your sadness, I send you smiles and joy where ever possible. Judy

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K.R.

answers from New London on

First I am very sorry to hear about your father. My grandmother just pasted away 2 years ago from lung cancer. My older two were 1 and 3. Although the one year old didn't really understand what was going on my 3 year old did. We just explained that the angels came down and took her to heaven. We didn't prepare her for the actual death, we just tried to prepare her for the funeral. Explaining that it would look like GIGI was sleeping but she was watching with the angels. We did the same thing with my cousin (he was 5 at the time) when my grandfather died. I personally feel you can never fully prepare for the death of a loved one and I try to explain it as tha person will always be looking down and even though you can't see them, they are still part of your life. Good luck.

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N.M.

answers from Rochester on

i think the 13 & 9 year old will understand more than the 4 year old, and just tell them basic info, don't get into detail. let them see him as much as possible, or with what they are comfortable with. they don't need to hear all the details until they are old enough to really understand. when the time comes, it will obviously make them upset to see you upset, but just reassure them that you are ok, even though you may not be. and if you have help to take care of them when the time comes, please take it, you can't take care of your kids if you are not well yourself. please take care of yourself and my prayers are with you

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