How can I make the experience of death less scary for my kids? -

How can I make the experience of death less scary for my kids?


Our situation has changed rather suddenly. We just found out my dad has lung cancer, so he probably won't be with us much longer. I am taking care of him in his home, and I have a 10yo son and 6yo daughter living with me here as well. We plan to keep him at home on hospice. I would love to hear from other people who went through this with kids, if you have any advice about ways to portray this as a natural thing. They haven't expressed any fear or sadness yet, but when he starts to get really sick, I am not sure how it will be.

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Be open, it's there. They will know. Circle of Life. My child lost a grandpa. Our Child comforted us when dad died. Our kid also went through an early loss in kindergarten when a 4 year old lost her life to meningitis. They were in the same room/class. That is still sad 10 years later...We will not forget that...The owner of kindergarten had all kids in a circle and faced it, no holding back. This was one of the hardest things to face. It was the most natural and realistic way to handle a child's life. Grandpas and grandmas love their grandkids, and they will always be in their hearts. Let them know, they can always talk to grandma and grandpa, love has no boundaries, in Heaven or Earth.
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My mother-in-law spent most of her last year at our house; my kids were 11, 13, &15. The most helpful sister-in-law, also a daughter-in-law, had kids who were 3,5,&7. Grandma also had lung cancer. My kids learned how to do her breathing treatments, and helped her get around, helped make juice and things she could eat. We all prayed with her, and we tried to be as matter-of-fact as we could, no giant drama. It became part of our life. We told them that we hoped the treatments and medicines would help her feel better, but we had to take each day as it came.
When my husband was dying, it was our kids and their cousins who were there all day his last day, as well as our grandkids, then 10 thru 14. We didn't really need to talk a lot, just let them share the love and care that was going on. I remember having the youngest of the grandkids at the hospital during my husband's last week (the nurses let us smuggle him in) , and his grandpa laid hands on him and prayed with him. That was 10 years ago and I'm crying, just remembering. And we never told the children to not cry. Just hug them a lot and they can comfort each other and you.
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Talk to their pediatrician, the hospice folks and the town librarian (good books out there on this subject for children) . The one thing not to do, in my opinion? Not talk about it. I lost several grandparents and uncles during my early childhood, cancer, heart stuff, stroke. No one said anything. No one told us when they died. It was like they thought if they didn't talk about it, we wouldn't notice. Make sure that you are genuine in your emotions...own your own sadness. Seeing mommy and daddy cry when they are sad is a gift. Seeing mommy and daddy act out their sadness in depression, anger and other ways? Very destructive and confusing to children . You are so smart to seek advice about this!
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Just tell your children that pop is sick and won't be with us much longer. Explain he will be in a better place with Jesus and his wife, but he will always be with them in their heart. Now is the time to do all we can to make pop comfortable and get ready for his journey . Perhaps you can suggest that they ask pop to tell them stories, like how he met his wife, about the day you were , etc. they can also tell him about their day. I would take your cues from your kids. Childten can do many things to help out or just make your father comfortable. Watch his favorite tv shows, listen to music he likes, look at photos or just something as simple as holding his hand. I have been in your place twice, once when my children were very young and again as teenagers and could not be more proud of my children for helping to make the passing of my grandmother and mother so peaceful. Hospice workers were wonderful and can give you literature and ideas to help your children understand and help you answer their questions. You are showing your children that this is what we do for people that we love. Be at peace. 😇
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For now, just ask them to cheer him up, draw him some pictures and read with him. Kids have an amazing amount of flexibility.
How they react to death depends on how YOU handle it. If YOU are going to be coming apart at the seams, so are they. If you can approach this with inner peace, so will they. If you have hysterical relatives, that's another red flag.
Protect the children FIRST. Hospice is not easy. You may think you are doing just fine, but the kids are throwing tantrums and wetting the bed and getting in trouble. They are simply reflecting what goes on around them, they pick up on the tension and grief without even knowing it. Use caution, talk it over with your Pediatrician first.
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