My grandpa is dying. How do I tell my 4yo DD ?

(5 Posts)
pookamoo Sat 16-Feb-13 21:13:48

They are fairly close. She loves to visit every time we can. She went to him first out of the great grandparents when they came to see her as a crawling baby and he has always been proud of her.

Now he is dying in hospital and we are waiting for the call. My dad is with him. He is 93, and unconscious, which he has been since a fall early Thursday.

His wife (my grandma) will not visit him. She says he would not like her to see him like that and she is right. She is also 93, is quite poorly, and is giving up without him. She's very confused and spends all day and all night in her armchair, she doesn't know day from night, despite having carers, district nurse visits, my mum popping in, etc. She doesn't understand what's happening (the memory nurse says she does not have dementia, but this is not the real her).

Sorry, I wanted to give some background, but it is a bit upsetting for me. I'm 33 and still have 3 of my grandparents, I've never been through this before, I know I am lucky.

How on earth do I tell my DD1? Have looked on Winston's Wish, and we have "Badger's Parting Gift" which is perfect for her because she loves Brambley Hedge, Beatrix Potter etc, but I don't know what words to use. I don't want to get it wrong.

Do we tell her he's really too poorly to get better? Or do we wait until after?

My mum's dad died when I was 4 and I remember asking "why" and being told he was ill in the winter and that's why. I was scared every time anyone was ill in the winter they would die - what they actually meant was "remember when he was ill last winter, well he was still poorly from that illness again and he couldn't get better". Wording is everything - she is so bright she will have questions I can't answer.

sad Can anyone help with this? Thank you.

CelticPromise Sat 16-Feb-13 21:34:40

I'm so sorry about your Grandad.

My mum died last year. My DS (3.3 at the time) spent time with her in hospital and I think it helped him understand how ill she was. I used really simple words and just told him Gran had died and that means we can't see her anymore and it's ok to be sad about that, mummy is very sad too. I've told him that Gran was very very sick and the doctors couldn't make her better. I'd avoid words like lost or sleeping, you know from your own experience how confusing words can be.

What worked for us was telling DS in very simple terms and letting him ask questions when he was ready. I also mention my mum a lot and he knows he can still ask several months on. The way you feel is right will be the right way.

Best wishes.

pookamoo Sat 16-Feb-13 21:42:56

Thank you celtic. I am so sorry for your loss.

We visited them a couple of weeks ago, and I am so glad we did. I think she would be scared to visit him in hospital as he's unconscious, and it would be a 4 hour round trip as we couldn't stay with my parents. She'd just be "being taken" to see something she wouldn't understand. Plus, we don't know how long this is going to go on for.

She does need to know why Mummy is sad, though. Her cuddles and smiles do make me feel better, so the more of those I can get, the better. smile DD2 is just 17 months, so she won't really understand, but she's cuddly too, which is lovely.

CelticPromise Sat 16-Feb-13 21:59:00

You are so right about the cuddles, DS has got me through some tough days! It doesn't sound like visiting is the right thing for your DC. You know them best, and you won't get it wrong.

pookamoo Sat 16-Feb-13 22:17:04

They are wonderful, aren't they? (children)
They help us to make sense of it all in some way.

I just don't want to scare her, I suppose. She and DH had a long conversation about death just a little while ago, and a couple of days later we found a dead bee. She sighed and said "Oh, it's a bee that has come to the end of its life, let's put it outside, Mummy."
She really accepted it. It could be different when it is a person she knows, cares about and she will never see them again.

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