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How Do You Deal With Death / Dying with Children?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by WillPlay4Food, Mar 25, 2009.

  1. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    A few of you may know my mother-in-law is dying of cancer. She fought it through chemo/radiation for about 2.5 years before they found it in her brain. They did radiation treatments on her brain, but this was the beginning of the end.

    Currently she's living at my home (condo). Since 'home' is a 2 bedroom condo, it's made for very cramped conditions as my son now sleeps with the missus and me every night since my MIL is in his bedroom.

    As of this week her condition has been officially changed from being treated to comfort measures only. This means no more radiation, chemo or any other type of treatment.

    The only thing to do from here on out is to lower the pain as much as possible. By the end of this week we are receiving what I will call the 'Death Pack'. This Death Pack includes morphine, Adavan(sp?) and other drugs related to keeping dying people from feeling too much pain.

    Basically she's been written off and I can understand why. The cancer (small oat carcinoma, if it matters) is everywhere in her body and there's no way to remove it.

    While this is a burden especially on my wife, then me, I know it's starting to get to my four year old son. He's starting to ask questions like "Daddy, when will I die?" "When will you die?" and the like. So far he's only experienced one death in the family, my father-in-law.

    Anyway, when he asks, the only thing I can think of to say is "A very long time."

    What I want to know is, has anyone had to deal with issues like this with their kids and how did you go about it?

    Things are rough enough at home with my wife ready to cry at a moment's notice, my MIL slipping into a depression as she's been given a month to live and me trying to keep things together. I don't want my son getting into a funk at what should be the happiest time of his life. I'm sure the fact she's dying in his bedroom, in his bed (until the hospital bed is delivered) will affect him now or at some point.

    My apologies for bringing up a downer of a thread, but I need some ideas cuz I'm drawing a blank.
  2. DaveDeVille

    DaveDeVille ... you talkin' to me ?? Supporting Member

    dude , first off let me say my condolences for your family .
    my step-father died two months ago from a lingering case of Parkinsons ...:bawl:
    the " death-pack " is very helpful , but i would also suggest that you call for Hospice Care .
    they are very helpful , thoughtful , and understanding .

    i might also suggest a new bed for your son , after this all passes away ...

    again, my condolences , and stay strong for you family ,
    they need you now more than ever .
  3. Hollow Man

    Hollow Man Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Springfield, VA
    You have my condolences as well.

    I'm a youngster with no wife or kids, but I think the idea of a new bed for your son is outstanding. As much as the memory of his grandmother should be cherished, the thought of her spending part of her last days in his bed is one that could definitely keep him up at night. I would say, after her passing, remind your son that he did a great thing for a great person by allowing her to share his room, and that for his help and personal sacrifice, he gets a new bed with new sheets, or whatever floats his boat.
  4. N8116B


    Jan 14, 2008
    BE honest above all else. Let the child know that death is natural and we will all die one day.
  5. Don't have a great answer for you, just some sympathy & a little experience. My kids have all seen death up-close; I recently had to bury a much-loved pet right in front of them(NOT comparing a pet to a genuine, human family member, just saying they do understand the *mechanics* of the end of life). Long story, cat+traffic+complicated time constraints=a painful life lesson, learned perhaps a bit early(3, 7 & 9). My now-10-yr-old son watched my mother-in-law deteriorate from emphysema; her passing and a number of other pet deaths has shown him the cold facts at an early age. Good and bad, I think.
    Again, my condolences.
  6. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Be honest. Try to explain it in terms they can understand. Familiarize yourself with how kids his age (what age is he?) perceive themselves, other people and their environment (cf. magical phase. During so-called "magical phases" (Magische Phasen in German) children can come to incorrect and potentially devastating conclusions, such as "I am responsible for my granma's death, because I had an argument with her, for example). I could recommend some books, but I only have German ones so it wouldn't be of any use.
    IME it's better to deal with it in an honest and direct way than to euphemize the topic.

    These books look quite good, judging from the info given on Amazon:



  7. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    So sorry to hear you're going through this. Our family dog just died and my son had a tough time with it. He ended up keeping a picture of Nino under his pillow. We got through it by creating a memory book of all our favorite photos of him and we let him choose all the photos. His ability to process this, as a five year old really impressed us. I understand that a human family member is a LOT different than a dog, but I can only suggest that you keep it very simple for him.

    His great grandfather died, and we went to say goodbye. He walked up to him and gave him a kiss and told him to "stay happy Grandpa." He understood that for his Great Grandfather it was time.

    Just a couple of ideas, for you. Hope they help. Also tell him that right now your (you and your son's) job is to make sure you keep your wife (his mom) happy, and that you support her while she goes through this loss. As far as how he deals with Grandma dying, you'd be surprised at how well kids process these things if you keep it in simple terms.

    Good luck, and you've got positive thoughts coming from me and my family in California.
  8. dean owens

    dean owens

    Sep 23, 2008
    pittsboro, nc
    wow man. i have a 2yr10mth old and a 10 month old and i'm sitting here trying to put myself in your situation. it's close to making me want to cry (sorry, i can be emotional when it comes to kids).

    i haven't had to go through this... so i'm no expert but i'll throw out a few things. as my kids pediatrician always says when my wife and i ask if we're doing the right thing... "you're designed to help your kids flourish so more than likely you'll do the right thing." it's great to see a dad concerned and getting advice for his son, but you sound like the sorta dad who will do the right thing regardless of the advice you get here. so try not to "worry" about it.

    this might not come out well, but it's something to take a little comfort in. kids are resilient. think about all the things you've been through in life (along with people throughout the world). all our baggage, yet we tend to grow up and function quite well. we are designed to learn and bounce back.

    as far as advice, i believe it's best to be as honest as you can with kids - while keeping it on their level. and in situations like this to also remind them of all the great things his grandma got to do in her life. help him to celebrate her. and allow (don't force) him to grieve. he won't do it the same way as y'all, but he will. my grandma lived with me when i was growing up. i remember when she died. i was about 9 and didn't really get it (maybe i'm not that bright). i remember that it wasn't until about 6 months later that i was balling because i realized i wouldn't see her again in this life and i finally knew what it meant to miss someone.

    my parents did a really good job of being honest and listening. the only thing that i think they did wrong was they tried to protect me. my grandma died in the hospital with kidney complications. from what i understand she didn't look like herself because of all the tubes and bloating. i wanted to see her. i wanted to say goodbye. my parents thought it wouldn't be good for me. they wanted me to remember her like she was. i can't say that they were wrong, but to this day i still wish i could have "said goodbye" to her. who knows, maybe if they would have let me see her i would be typing about how they shouldn't have let me see her. ;)

    in the end, love your son and be honest with him. and LOVE YOUR WIFE. i know you know this but she needs you to be there for her. laugh with those who laugh and mourn with those who mourn.

    i'll be in prayer for you. and if you don't want me to. too bad, i'm going to anyway.
  9. If you have a cleric you trust, ask them. Specially an older one. They will have been through this and they might be able to help you.

    I am not a religious person, but sometimes they have experience that can be put to good use.

  10. DaveF


    Dec 22, 2007
    New Westminster, BC
    You have my prayers from Canada...
    That's all I can really say.
  11. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I greatly appreciate them.

    We certainly won't be hiding him from his nana or keeping him in the dark about death/dying. He remembers his papa (my FIL) passing so I believe he understands at least that death is permanent.

    I imagine we'll have to get him a new bed once she is gone. I know it would bother me sleeping in a bed when I knew someone died in it. Someone suggested redecorating his whole room and we'll probably do that too.
  12. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    As everyone else has said, my prayers and thoughts are with you.

    When my stepfather died, our son was three. But he remembers him, so we simply said he died and went to heaven. He accepted that, and remembers it to this day (he's 5½ now). But my eight-year-old nephew had a pretty rough time dealing with it since he knew dad better. So after the funeral service I told him "Your Papa is always with you -- right here" and pointed at his heart. That seemed to perk him up a bit.
  13. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I'm really sorry to hear this story. Life can be tough at times, and it somehow seems unfair when this applies to youngsters.

    I agree that honesty is the best - really the only - way to tackle this. We all have to learn, at some point, that life isn't forever. Sometimes young children can find this easier to accept than we do. Tell it like it is. You'll find a way to do this well, I'm sure.

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