What can you say to your children? What do you do?
When someone I love is sick and can’t get better, how do I tell my children? This is a question that unfortunately comes up in our lifetime. It is one, as parents we wish we never have to deal with, but ultimately we die. And sometimes we die when our children are little, or our grandchildren are small, hopefully they are adults when the time comes but often they are not.
How do I tell my children that Grandad is dying? A big question and my best advice is to only tell them about 4-6 weeks before the end if possible. The aim it to tell your children firstly that Grandad isn’t well and then build on this information bit by bit. It is a planned approach.
What do you say to start? If it is cancer you can say something like “Grandad has a lump that shouldn’t be there”, you can say where on his body it is. Be sure to add in that “you can’t catch it”. Why does he have a lump? “we don’t know why” . Just keep it simple, be honest and be clear. Children don’t need too much information. You can tell them that “the doctors are working hard to make Grandad better and Grandad is trying too.”
As Grandad’s illness is progressing, and he is becoming very sick it is time to tell your child that Grandad may not get better, “Grandad is very sick and sometimes doctors can’t make it better. They will try very hard and grandad will try hard to get well too”. This stage is about letting them know that the “doctors can’t make it better for Grandad.” By now your children will have picked up on the feelings of everyone around them, perhaps seen mum crying or noticed people close to them are sad. This is okay and it is fine for children to see you sad at a time like this. You can talk about “how it is making everyone sad that the doctors can’t make grandad better”.
Now is the time to also talk about and notice living things around you and them in everyday life. Butterflies, flowers, people, animals, insects. Notice the ones that are living and the ones that have died. Nature is all around you. Talk about once someone or something dies, it can’t come back to life. If it’s an person, animal or insect it stops breathing, eating and moving, the body stops working. Please ask for advice if you need it.