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    #164228 - 08/13/13 04:18 AM Preparing DD for expected death in the family?
    Pemberley Offline

    Registered: 08/07/11
    Posts: 738
    When DD was 3 my father died and she was totally devastated. No one was able to tell me what to do to help her through it because no one had ever seen a 3 year old react the way that she did. She got it. She got all of it. The permanence that is supposed to be incomprehensible for kids this age hit her like a ton of bricks.

    Fast forward 5 years and my brother is going through treatment for a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. We decided not to say anything to DD - she has raised several thousand dollars for the American Cancer Society over the past few years just because it was something she wanted to do. (There's a big Relay for Life event at DH's university every year and she wanted to do a lemonade stand to support it. It kind of took on a life of its own.) Our hope is he pulls through and we can tell her then that she helped to save him. If he doesn't we can tell her that her efforts helped him to fight it. It's been 9 months now and he still fighting. He lives 3000 miles away so she hasn't seen him. That plan has been working until...

    Last night DH's mother went into ICU and the doctors don't expect her to survive. She turned around late in the night but it is probably only a matter of time. DH took DD to visit last month so she knows her grandmother is on oxygen and much weaker than she remembered. I know DD is older and more mature now - she has been through numerous death since my father so has a true understanding of it. I just don't know the best way to prepare her.

    DD spent her early years in a household full of older pets and watched each fade slowly away and helped care for them. When each of them died she knew it was the right time - we had done all we could for them. Her grandmother lives several hundred miles away and her uncle several thousand so she is not seeing any kind of daily decline. I don't want to worry her too far in advance but I don't want her taken by surprise either. Any suggestions?

    #164230 - 08/13/13 05:06 AM Re: Preparing DD for expected death in the family? [Re: Pemberley]
    mama2three Offline

    Registered: 04/09/13
    Posts: 84
    First off, sorry to hear about both your MIL and your brother's illnesses. Obviously the two instances are different in talking with your DD, as there is no reason to share your brother's illness at this time if you feel it would unnecessarily worry her, whereas your MIL's condition is quite different.

    I do think that sudden unexpected deaths are often more difficult. When any of us have a chance to see (even via skype) or hear about someone's health changing, it is easier to accept. (Your example of her watching the pets decline seems to capture that.) Getting kids breakfast, so sorry if this isn't worded smoothly...

    In my experience, I'd say the most important things are:
    1) openness ( talking about changes, sharing -- to some extent -- about your and DH's feelings)
    2) Talking about whatever you believe about the meaning of life, death/life after death, what comforts you
    3) Giving her space to share her beliefs about death and whatever comforts her, which may be different from your own beliefs
    4) is there anything she needs to say/do? (Even if this is a letter to her grandma, or words at her casket, if there's not time for her to talk with her before she dies.) Simple rituals, sharing pictures and story-telling can be quite powerful.
    5) Offering a variety of ways for her to continue to process/express her feelings, whether talking, art, journaling, etc... All of which is helped by you and DH being a bit transparent about how you are processing your own, and what provides comfort to you.

    #164288 - 08/13/13 01:37 PM Re: Preparing DD for expected death in the family? [Re: Pemberley]
    Quantum2003 Offline

    Registered: 02/08/11
    Posts: 1425
    If she had already seen her grandmother's decline, she will probably not be too surprised by her eventual death. Considering that she lives hundreds of miles away, I would not tell her ahead of time, as it would just prolong the worry/desperation phase. When my sister passed away, I actually kept it from my children for months as one of them was fighting for his own survival. I was able to do that because she lived more than a thousand miles away and we only saw her once or twice a year and I attended the funeral without the children because my oldest's immune system was too compromised to allow air travel at the time. I think that when you make the travel plans for the funeral is sufficient time for her to get used to the idea. Grief has to run its course. You can be available to listen but she has to work through it herself.

    #164292 - 08/13/13 02:09 PM Re: Preparing DD for expected death in the family? [Re: Pemberley]
    polarbear Offline

    Registered: 09/29/11
    Posts: 3363
    I am sooooo not an enlightened expert on this, so what I have to add is only an anecdote from one family, but fwiw, My primary advice is to go wi your gut feeling, whatever it is, about the best way to handle each situation.

    When my mother died, her health declined slowly for a few years and then very rapidly over the course of two months. Even th we knew the end was semi-near -as in probably within the next year, when she died it was much sooner and more unexpected than we or her caretakers had anticipated. My children all loved her very much Althea we lived across a continent and they only saw her 1-2 times per year. The year she was declining we did not visit during the holidays because we had other commitments at home. She was unable to talk on the phone due to illness during those holidays, and this was unusual for our kids - they were used to skyline with family during birthdays etc. there was a lot of high-stress talking taking place among the adults in my family re my moms situation, but we kept that from our kids simply because it was the holiday and we wanted them to have a happy holiday. When my mom died soon after, we weren't with her. The kids hadn't had a chance to prepare for it or say goodbye, and they were definitely caught by surprise. Not what I would have anticipated as a desirable situation, but it worked out formy kids, and maybe even better than just ok. My dd who was the closest to her was of course hit hard, but knowing ahead of time would only have filled her life with anxiety and dread and also filled my life with having to deal with her anxiety at a time when I had an overload of adult anxiety and worries and planning etc to deal with. Even though it was sudden and they weren't prepared for it, we were able to work through the feelings and worries etc that my children experienced and it was (jmo, and just in this situation) less stressful than if we'd started working through it all before she died.

    I would not have been able to fully predict ahead of time how grief over this one death would have Impacted each of my children even though I know them well. My dswas sooooooo upset and sad when he was younger and our elder
    Y dog died - even though he never paid attention to her or played with her. He is very sensitive and I would have anticipated he would have been hit very hard by his grandmothers death but it didn't impact him in any extreme way. I think being older than when our dog died he was more understanding of aging and the impact it has and the reality of the natural end of life for us all. He absolutely understood the finality of death when our dog died but didn't have as much life experience at that time to out it into perspective. My older dd was very very very sad, but she would have been anyway. My youngest dd was more out of touch with what happened - she was worried about things like do the people who take care of her know she's dead rather than upset about her actually being dead. So if we'd had the time to prep yngest dd, we would have had time to reassure her that yes, the people who took care of her would know not to come to work the next day.... but realistically we could not have predicted that was something shed need reassurance about. We did fly our entire family to the funeral, which was helpful for our kids and more helpful for me - I had the people with me I care the most about at a time when I didn't want to be missing them.

    So do the preparing that makes sense to you as the parent of your child, don't go so above and beyond that you have additional stress on top of having to deal with your loss and worries, and know that whatever approach you take, it will be ok.

    I'm so sorry you are facing the loss of your mother in law and that your brother is fighting cancer. I will be thinking of each of you.


    Ps - I am replying on my iPad - hopefully there won't be too many odd spell-corrects smile

    #164297 - 08/13/13 04:37 PM Re: Preparing DD for expected death in the family? [Re: Pemberley]
    Wren Offline

    Registered: 01/14/08
    Posts: 1575
    Very sorry to hear about the losses you are facing. It sounds like your DD is able to handle the truth and she may want to say her good byes. It is the practice to tell children everything and help them feel included, even though it is a very difficult situation. It is still hard but being part of all of it helps them heal.

    #164298 - 08/13/13 04:38 PM Re: Preparing DD for expected death in the family? [Re: Pemberley]
    Pemberley Offline

    Registered: 08/07/11
    Posts: 738
    Thanks for the replies so far. Today it seems that MIL has improved. I don't think she will last much longer but it no longer seems her death is imminent. On the other hand I heard from my brother today and he has taken a major turn for the worse. DH and I decided that we will tell DD and take her to see him in about 3 weeks. It will be after school starts for both of them but we don't think we can risk being so far away while his mother's status is still questionable. We had a vacation planned for next week that we think we will cancel and spend in the area closer to his parents instead. This means we can visit MIL and FIL and also be nearby if things go south.

    Bad, bad timing these things have...

    #164310 - 08/14/13 01:17 AM Re: Preparing DD for expected death in the family? [Re: Pemberley]
    matmum Offline

    Registered: 11/06/09
    Posts: 195
    Loc: Australia
    I am so very sorry to hear of the illnesses in your family.

    You have been given wonderful advice and I can only add my own perspective to things.

    I have always been very open about death and dying with my children and when we have faced those issues within my family I have discussed the situation with them and given them the opportunity to grieve in their own way. If they choose to see our loved one in those final days then I take them to see them. If on the other hand they choose to remember that person the way they last saw them then we go down that path. For some people being there is paramount but for others, well they can't bring themselves to be there. For those that choose the later path guilt can play a very large part in their grieving process so I always emphasise that being there in the physical sense is only one part of dying, the most important thing is that you are there in spirit. While ever you hold that person in your heart and soul then you are both never far from each other.

    You know your child better than anyone so as has been said, go with your gut. There are no wrong or right answers here just different ones based on what we know and feel at the time.

    Edited by matmum (08/14/13 01:18 AM)


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