Hello, I am in need of some advice.
My mother in law has terminal cancer, and the doctors are pretty sure she will not make it until Christmas, and possibly even Thanksgiving.
My husband and I have a 5 1/2 year old and I feel that she should be told now what is going to happen. She is already acting timid around Grandma, presumably because MIL has lost her hair from chemo and radiation, and she has a horrible scar on her head from surgery to remove brain tumors earlier this summer.
We did explain to dd that grandma is sick and that is why she has no hair, but it hasn't helped much with her behavior around grandma.
Now that all treatments have been stopped, and we know she is not going to live but a few more weeks, my husband AND his sister both believe we should not tell my daughter that grandma is going to die, and instead, think we should wait until after MIL passes to tell her. I know they do not want to tell her b/c they are afraid of her asking grandma about dying and upsetting their mother and anyone else in the room at the time, but I just don't agree with that approach and need advice on how to handle this disagreement.
Any advice is greatly appreciated.
Here is a site for you to check out. The info is really good and hopefully it will help you family in this time of sadness.
We printed out the info and refer to it often. My grandmother (the boys great-grandma) has been ill for quite some time, she's 89. My boys are close with her and we've found the info helpful in explaining death to children.
I'm sorry to hear about you MIL. I'm sending prayers your way.
Loud mom of 2 loud boys ages 10 & 7.
I am sorry to hear about your MIL as well. I worked as a chaplain for a while and what I learned is that being direct and honest with children is best. Also allow them to ask questions and express their emotion. I wish you much luck with this difficult transition.
Hi! I am so sorry to hear about the experience you are facing! I hope I can help you by giving you the childs point of view. When my niece was 5 my mother was passing away from cancer. My sister was very open with Kaitlan, and let her be involved with her as much as possible. She was there when my mother passed on. Although she was not in the actual room, she was asleep in the next room at the hospice. She heard my sister, her mother, as she mourned the passing and got to view her body. She is now 11 and remembers it all vividly. She doesn't look back on it with regret or angst. She sees comfort from the fact she was able to understand what was happening, and understood how to deal with her grief. She has only wonderful memories of her grandma, and looks fondly on all her moments, even in the hospice! Because we allowed her to experience in the grieving process, she was prepared to say her good-byes, and even though she misses her Nana terribly, she knows her last moments were comfortable and that she was loved! I don't know if this will help you, but sometimes knowing the outcome, helps to make your decision! I pray you find solace, and that your process is filled with wonderful memories and love!
It is so tough when they are young like that. My mom passed away last summer from cancer as well. My daughter was just a few weeks shy of turning 3 at the time and my niece was 5. We didn't tell them that Grandma was dying. We explained that she is very sick and that is why she can't play with them anymore. The day my Mom passed away I told her that Grandma went to heaven and we won't be able to see her anymore. Of course my daughter was only 3 and I think a 5 year old might understand death a little better. Both of the girls handled it all pretty well. We talk about Grandma all the time with her and she made up in her own mind that Grandma is now an angel.
I think my advice would be to follow your instincts with whether or not to tell her. If you choose not to tell her directly that Grandma is dying then you might want to start talking to her a little bit about death and what it means. That way she will understand better when her Grandma does pass away.
I'm so sorry you are going through this. It is so painful to see someone you love so much suffering.
**Michelle** Mom to:
Lauren - born 7/29/05
Julianna - born 6/30/08
hi, i want to say that im so sorry that you are all going through this. really, i dont think there is just one correct way to handle it. you have to know your daughter. think about her fears and what worries her. my son was already very upset about death in general, our neighbor had passed and it really made a huge impact on him. we werent close, but he saw him every day, and after he passed my son became very afraid, he talked about it a lot. he was very worried about something happening to us. and when it did happen in our family shortly after, he was very very upset. though, honestly, and i think its just the age, but what worries them the most is concern for themselves and their life and family. she will most likely be afraid of something happening to you, will be very worried when one of you becomes sick. i cant kid around about feeling old anymore, that word is almost a curse in our house because after our neighbor passed, i had told my son that you have to be old AND sick,,, that was advice that i had gotten. and then, as far as my son knew, my dad was neither. so not only did it make a liar out of us, but now, as far as my son is concerned, it can just happen for no reason, which causes him so much anxiety. i think you have to think more about what you say then when you say it. think about her worries and how things are going to be afterward. if you tell her too soon, i think it will just give her more time to be upset and anxious, and, like you all, feel awful and helpless. i do think you have to be honest, but remember that time is different for them, a few weeks can be forever. i dont think you really need to tell her everything now, just tell her what you need to so that it wont be a shock, part of her probably knows already, she hears more than you think she does. it might be better at this point to listen to her instead of talk. ask her if she has any questions or worries that she wants to talk about, be gently honest, and dont push it. this time is precious for your family, for your husband, and you won't get it back. i wish you the very best.
I am going through a similar situation and it is tough. My Grandmother is currently in a hospice facility and is expected to live only another week or so. I have a 3yr old whom I've had to explain things to. When going to visit my Grandma I tell my daughter that Great-Grandma is very sick and try to explain what she may see so she won't be afraid. I've told her that Great-Grandma is going to go live with the angels soon and we won't be able to see her anymore but she will always be with us. I've also tried to explain to her that her family will be sad but everything will be alright. It's hard, she is a very perceptive 3yr old & I don't want her to be shocked by what she sees, but at the same time I don't want to overlaod her with too much information.
I believe it is best to try to explain to your children what is going on so they can be prepared for it. But I also don't want to give too much information and scare them. I wish you the best.
sorry...new at this...don't know why it posted twice.
Last edited by maimo; 11-19-2009 at 02:35 PM.
first, i am sorry for what you are going through. no one wants to talk about such an unpleasant, unknown event. unfortunately, death is inevitable and fortunately it is a normal, natural part of life. talking to your daughter will give her the opportunity to begin the grieving process and say goodbye. when my mom passed, my daughters were 3 and 4 - i told them exactly what was going on (in simple terms, of course). when my mom died (she was fortunate enough to die at home) my kids even said good bye to her while she lay in her bed. do my kids talk about death? yes. do they know that someday they will die? yes. do i like it? not particularly, but i was raised with everything draped in secrecy and i refuse to do that to my daughters. ok. sorry. obviously, you have to do what you are comfortable with. And, if your daughter is anything like my now 6 year old, she is smart and very capable of understanding what is happening. good luck with everything and my prayers are with you and your family.
I am very sorry for what you are dealing with now and what you unfortunately will have to deal with in the months to come. My step father of 35 years died in January. My oldest was 5 at the time and very close with him. We were very honest, told her what was expected to happen and eased her into it. We did buy some books to help her understand the before and after. When the day arrived she handled it better than I thought she would but it took a few days for it to sink in. Do not try to protect her, be open and honest as much as you can and be prepared based on your beleifs as to where she will go after she dies. Not telling her doesn't explain where she is after she has died. It's hard for everyone, be open with everyone and it's easier to handle with a lot of tears. Good luck.