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Dad has days to live - what to tell his grandchildren

(17 Posts)
Scottishgymnast Mon 05-Sep-16 10:55:09

My wonderful dad was recently diagnosed with advanced cancer. Completely out of the blue, complete shock is in his 60's and was as far as we knew fit, healthy and enjoying life. Anyway it's all spiralled very very quickly and we have now been told we are near the end.

I'm at a loss of what to say to my DC (7 and 5 yrs). I would always go to my DM for advice like this but at the moment I can't.

We've talked lots about him being ill - that some of the cells in his body aren't working properly and that doctors aren't sure if they can make him better. They have no idea of the severity and I need advice on how on earth I help them understand. Or do I not, do I just keep repeating what I've already said until the inevitable happens and then tell them that.

They are very close to him - desperately want to see him but he is so drowsy etc that I don't think it's a good idea. However I can imagine my 7 year old will be devastated that she never got to see him.

Can anyone help me work out the best thing. I think I'm in shock - my dad is all you could ever want in a dad and grandad and I don't know how we will ever move on from this.

chough Mon 05-Sep-16 12:29:47

Do you have a Macmillan nurse involved in your dad's care, OP?
They are very skilled at helping to prepare children for coping with a death in the family.
If Macmillan are not already involved, the staff caring for your dad should be able to make a referral: please don't try to cope with this alone.

Scottishgymnast Mon 05-Sep-16 15:38:52

No I don't. It's just all been so quick there has been no time. But that is a really sensible idea. Thank you.

KnockMeDown Mon 05-Sep-16 15:47:33

I am not an expert, but my initial reaction is to let them see him, for all their benefit. Maybe ask them to draw him a picture, which could then go with him when the inevitable happens . If he is drowsy, you can say he is tired, and if he looks ill, then it may help them understand.

Hugs to you - my DC have lost 2 grandparents recently , and my DD, 6, has surprised me with her acceptance, saying that they were still in the family, that we still have them, but they are just 'up there '.

I think be as truthful as you can, whilst adjusting for age, as they will inevitably pick up on your own grief.
flowers

KnockMeDown Wed 07-Sep-16 08:54:23

Hi Scottish, how are things? Have been thinking of you.

Sending hugs. .

Sandsnake Wed 07-Sep-16 09:08:04

Just seen this. Afraid I haven't much in the way of meaningful advice but I wanted you to let you know that I am thinking about you and your lovely Dad. He sounds like a wonderful man flowers

keepmoving Wed 07-Sep-16 09:09:00

Sorry you are having to face this Scottish. My DF died 6 weeks ago having been told he had stage 4 cancer at the end of May. I told both DC (10 and 8) than he was very ill and that it was important that we spent some time together. When he died, the older one was upset but the younger took it in his stride, they were more upset about me being upset and I explained that it is ok to be sad sometimes. I think children are remarkably resilient. My DD started secondary school last eel and I had a little cry that he wouldn't see her in her uniform. When I told DD this she said "it's ok, he can see me from heaven" and off she went.

Take some time for yourself and tell him the things you want to say. One of the "benefits" of knowing you are approaching a death is that you do take the time to share your love. We all get wrapped up in the day to day and think all our loved ones will be around forever.

My thoughts and prayers are with you.

sotired2 Wed 07-Sep-16 10:17:17

I am in a similar position. My DC 12 and 9 have seen their Grandma - and I think its helped them understand how ill she is. We kept it short and had pictures/cards they had done and I had planned things to talk about to keep it as light hearted as is possible - not easy.

We are still waiting for the inevitable but I try to be as honest and open as they can understand.

I think it is a hard time for all and you have to just try and get through it as best you can. There is no right or wrong

TopazRocks Thu 08-Sep-16 15:23:07

When my dad dies, my children were 8, 6, 4 and one. So similar to yours. It was a hard thing to do and the 8yo was especially close to him and he was vv upset. It was dh who told him he'd actually died as I was at the hospital and away overnight. Dad died rather quickly (stroke), took ill on Friday, died Sunday night. But I was home for Saturday night and told the older children that GD was ill, and the doctors had tried to help him but it wasn't possible. But that he was now sleeping and didn't seem to be in pain. My brother and I did discuss bringing the DC in - his were similar ages - and we would have if he'd been ill for longer, but it all went too quickly. Plus, we had dad's batty sister keening and talking non-stop etc. TBfair she was the big sis and it's understandable she was upset, but her distress wouldn't have helped the DC.

I am thinking about your specific situation - your DC might need a warning if your dad's appearance has changed a lot, e.g. if he's lost much weight, or is confused, has a lot of equipment round him. Be guided by your own dc's wishes and reaction. Have 2 adults there so they can leave again when required. If he's to move to a hospice, for example, that might be a better environment than a busy hospital, but follow your instinct as you know your children.There's no right action re-children saying goodbye to a loved person. Sorry this is happening to you, and I hope it all goes as well as can be. Take care.

TopazRocks Thu 08-Sep-16 15:24:49

actually should read 'NO right action'

pusspusslet Thu 08-Sep-16 16:54:48

Hi there,

I just wanted to tell you how very sorry I am to hear that you're going through this.

You'll know your children best, and whether they're mature enough to be able to cope with seeing their DGF looking very unwell and unlike himself. Those memories do stick, though, and that's something to bear in mind in deciding where the balance lies: the heartache (for your 7 year old) of not seeing DGF again balanced against what could be a lifelong unhappy memory of seeing him very ill.

For what it's worth, when I was 7 my beloved grandmother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. That evening my mother told my sister and me that Nana was unwell and might not survive, and a week later she told us that Nana had died. I now realise that when we were told that my grandmother was unwell she had already passed away. It was very hard--to this day I miss my grandmother--but it did give me a chance to begin to come to terms with things. The circumstances were different, and whether or not this might be a way forward with your children will depend upon how you think they'll be best able to cope.

Thinking of you and your children x

Scottishgymnast Thu 08-Sep-16 20:39:03

I haven't been on for a couple of days and have just after a bad day read all of your lovely messages. Thank you.

My amazing dad had a day where he was sitting up and quite bright so I got my DH to pop the DC over. It all went ok - only for 10 mins and my dad made an extra effort so was reasonably "normal".

Today has been a tough day as for the first time ever saw my dad break down and sob he is so sad and scared and it's awful to see him like this.

It all feels so surreal that it's my darling daddy in this truly awful situation. All I can think is all the things in the future that he won't be there for and all of the things the kiddies and I will miss about him. Not to mention my DM who will lose her world she is just amazing and looking out for me and my brother.

I just feel the saddest I've ever felt and I know there is worse to come.

chough Fri 09-Sep-16 12:55:04

Scottishgymnast, just to say thinking of you, as nothing can really be said to take your sadness away.
Your dad was brave to hold it together while your children were visiting.
I am a HCP working in an end of life care unit, and these feelings of sadness and fear which you describe in your dad do seem to ease in the last few days, when people tend to withdraw into themselves as they deteriorate, and they somehow find peace: I think it's nature's way to be kind.

Scottishgymnast Fri 09-Sep-16 20:25:23

Thank you chough. That's interesting to know.

You do such an amazing job and must be a pretty special person

40nanny Fri 09-Sep-16 22:39:41

Hello, I'm so sorry you are going through this awful journey with your,dad,I too was in your shoes 6 weeks ago & have a6& 8 year old so similar ages,who were grampas boys,I'm glad your kids were able to see him & will remember there GF,with there age,if anything like my 2 they just accepted it& are always coming away with things that my dad liked whether it's his favourite sweets in a shop or his favourite Scottish dance music that's on the radio,it's really lovely that they will always have memories of him.
I will be thinking of you all in the coming days,it is just the worse thing any family has to go through watching a loved one.Cancer is evil.no one deserves to have it. But he will know how much he is loved by you all,although it won't feel like it just,now you will get comfort knowing you were all there for dad& you got to say goodbye,some people don't get that chance.
Love & hugs to you all,I will be thinking about you xx

mymatemax Fri 09-Sep-16 23:48:15

When we knew it was nearing the end for my dad we told the that the doctors were not going to be able to make him better & that he was going to die. They were devastated they both wanted to see him. So they went. After he passed away ds2 was very upset that he could only remember him looking poorly. We spent lots of time looking through happy family photos. They are both pleased they got to have one mire cuddle. Take care of yourself too

Helmetbymidnight Sat 10-Sep-16 09:23:47

Hope you are ok, op.

We went through similar last month and the DC are similar ages.

We got dad out of hospital back home- the kids, naturally, thought that meant he was getting better- I told them 'he's not getting better' and they accepted this.

The last week, the DC visited him when pos, for short visits, gave him drawings, a teddy bear, a beaker, etc.

As dad became more agitated I kept DC away sad

Dh told the children when he died. That was best for me. They asked him lots of questions. He said something like 'I have some v sad news, grandad died'...they say it's best to be clear, and not use euphemisms.

They are ok, I think. Wishing you all the best, it's v hard.

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