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Should I prepare my daughter for her Geat Grandma's death??

(26 Posts)
mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 17:57:25

My 3 year old daughter has a great grandma who she really loves. She is 88 years old and is in pretty bad health. She is on oxygen all the time, steroids, nebulizer etc. She is in bed for most of the day but my daughter goes in and sings to her and dances for her, she says how are you today? are you better yet?
They have a really close relationship and she see's her most days. I just wondered what to tell her when her Nanna dies? It's going to be awkward as I know she won't understand and will keep asking her Grandma where Nanna is. This will upset my mother in law. I just wondered how to approach it when she does go. Should I prepare my daughter for it in advance to let her know that one day Nanna will die? What do you think??

Shoegazer Thu 17-Jul-08 18:15:55

My DD is 2 and her Great Grandad (my Grandad)recently passed away through cancer and it was expected. I know that a 2 year old and a 3 year old are miles apart in understanding, but I thought you might find it alittle helpful if I told you what I did. My DD did see her Grandad whilst he was sick, but she did not understand any of that at all as she was too young, but she did understand that when she saw Great Nanny she should also see Great Grandad so on some level she would notice that he was not where he was supposed to be IYSWIM. He loved gardening very much, and she loved to play in his garden and to see all the flowers he grew. I told her that one day soon Great Grandad would be going to another place to make lots of pretty flowers but that we wouldn't see him anymore, but that whilst everyone would be sad not to see him, he would be feeling very happy to grow all the flowers that he wanted and to not feel poorly anymore. When he died she painted him some pictures of flowers and then we planted lots of flowers together in our garden so that they would grow like in Grandad's new garden. So I suppose although I never really told her that he died or explained what any of that meant, I tried to prepare her in a small way for fact that he would be gone and she wouldn't see him anymore but in a positive way. I'm not sure I'm explaining myself very well, but I hope it makes sense somehow.

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 18:23:27

Aww, that is sooo sweet, it's bought a tear to my eye.(o.k quite a few of them) That is a really lovely way of explaining it. She has only ever known her Nanna to be in bed, but I'll try and think of somthing along those lines. Thank you. X X

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 18:58:31

Does anyone else have any sugestions? I remember people talking about a book years ago explaining death to children. I think it was about a little hedgehog that was going to die and he lef all his friends somthing to remember him by. Does anyone know of this book or anything simmilar?

Mercy Thu 17-Jul-08 19:10:40

I think a brief, simple explanation would work best. Not sure if it's best to prepare them or wait until it happens tbh.

For example, great grandma is very old and poorly so her body stopped working properly. I don't think she'll really understand at 3 though; you may well have the same questions time and again.

My ds is nearly 4½ and has only recently noticed that I don't have a dad. He has no concept of the finality of death whereas dd who is 7 has far more understanding (to hte point of giving ds a slightly brutal explanation)

Hope your grandma has a peaceful ending of her life.

andiem Thu 17-Jul-08 19:12:00

the book is called Badgers parting gifts and it is excellent

HonoriaGlossop Thu 17-Jul-08 19:17:26

To give an alternative approach, I told my ds when his great grandad died, that he had died! He knew something of the concept through seeing dead bugs, a dead bird, that sort of thing. And we spoke about how great grandad's body couldn't last forever and that he was 'all finished'.

He understood.

I think for my ds being told that he'd gone to another place to make a garden or something similar would have been very confusing indeed; he was a thinking child and also I believe like many children at this age very literal; WHERE is the garden, what's it like, when can we visit etc;

At this age he was able to cope with a simple version of the truth and I think for him that was better.

Mercy Thu 17-Jul-08 19:26:36

Honoria, completely agree re young children being very literal.

When my friend's dog died they buried her in the garden with a little ceremony for the dds. Grandma turned up later saying poor doggy has gone to heaven etc but the girls response was don't be silly grandma, she's in the mud under that bush.

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 19:26:39

Thank's everyone, I do prefere the garden idea It's somthing she can relate too. I personally don't believe that when you're gone, you're gone so I do like the more spiritual approach.
She has no concept of death either and it's awkward to go in to details without making it sound cold and blunt.

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 19:30:42

I went to a religeous school and when my goldfish died I told my teacher. She said don't worry, they have gone to heaven to be with God to which I replied "no they haven't Daddy flushed them down the toilet!".

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 20:08:25

andiem- Thanks, I've looked up the book and it looks lovely. I will definatly order it now so that I'll have it in plenty of time.

FattipuffsandThinnifers Thu 17-Jul-08 21:03:03

I would be inclined to give her some forewarning before your GM does pass away, just so it isn't too hard telling her once it happens. Maybe also say her Nanna will always be watching over her, a sort of guardian angel or something?

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 21:11:49

I was 6 when my great grandma died and I remember looking at her wrinkled hands and saying "You're really old arn't you?, does that mean you're going to die soon?". Not somthing she wanted to hear.

HonoriaGlossop Thu 17-Jul-08 21:22:40

but something as an adult that she should have been able to cope with - I mean, it's an innocent child trying to make sense of the world, it's not an insult.

I won't try and push my point of view, you're entitled to your beliefs; just as a children and families social worker I have seen and worked with alot of kids and families and I can say from my heart that a child needs the TRUTH. In age appropriate terms; but the truth. It's not kindness to give them anything else; ok if you believe there is other stuff after death tell them that's your belief; but don't present it as a proveable fact in the way that a body dying is a proveable fact. Not if you want them to trust you all their lives, anyway.

MmeBovary Thu 17-Jul-08 21:24:08

My mum died when I was 4 and I remember that my dad told me she had gone to heaven. Mind you she had been ill for some time so maybe I was used to not seeing her all the time. I don't remember being at all traumatised by this strangely but more the fact that the family almost never referred to her, or her death afterwards. In fact if one of the pets ever died, they went off to live with a new "family in the country". IME this kind of wish to protect us from "bad" news was the worst thing. I felt as I grew up that I could never ask questions about her in case i upset someone. I have asked a few things since I've got brave (and drunk) as an adult but still I don't feel comfortable talking to family members about her. And that to me is the saddest thing - she died 35 years ago tomorrow at the tragic age of 21. She's certainly not forgotten but I feel maybe that her life (though short) should have been celebrated more. So I've digressed a bit, but I think it is important to tell the truth to kids as much as possible at the level they can understand and not hide the sad bits away...

anotherdayyetanothernickame Thu 17-Jul-08 21:25:10

MLL - sorry to hear about your granny.

Honoria - I like your approach. I'm starting to introduce the idea of death to ds (3.0) for assorted reasons (including the fact his great granny, similar to the op's is 87 and not well).

Basically, I've said that sometimes things get so broken they don't work anymore, often when they are very very old and they can't always be fixed and they die. I'm not religious and agree that maybe talking of heaven or places people go might not be tangible enough.

andiem Thu 17-Jul-08 21:30:03

I have to agree with HG I am a children's nurse and have looked after both children who are dying and families of children who have died
Even very small children are able to deal with the truth much better than w give them credit for.
My MIL died when ds was 4 and I spoke to him before about her being ill and the doctor not being able to make her better
I read the badger book to him
I'm not religious so didn't want to go down the heaven route so what I said was that mil was gone forever but that because we had lots of lovely memories and she had loved us and we had loved her she lived on in our hearts because of the love

mummyloveslucy Thu 17-Jul-08 21:43:40

Thank you everyone, thinking about it I think that she might understand a bit about death. When she was only 2 we were in a supermarket and she was getting fidgety so I took her to look at the frozen fish. I said to her "Ow look at the fishes" and she replied "their dead", in a very blunt voice. I have no idea to this day how she understood that.
I will read the badger book first and go with that I think. I'll keep it simple.
Thanks. smile

HonoriaGlossop Thu 17-Jul-08 21:51:39

It is something that just makes me feel passionately, this issue. I think people skirt round it from a natural desire to protect children but it does the opposite IMO as your post shows so clearly MmeBovary. That is so horribly young to die, isn't it, just 21....

So yes I think they need the basic facts FIRST and they CAN cope with them. Then in addition to that it can be "well I believe they go to a garden" or whatever.

Even at 3 my ds could understand that bodies get 'all finished'. And he could understand that some people 'believed' in this or that happening after, but that no-one knows for sure.

HonoriaGlossop Thu 17-Jul-08 21:54:44

I also think death IS 'cold and blunt'; and that is one of the jobs of parents, is to help kids make sense of life and death. Better you do it by gently explaining basic facts about a relation, than another child does in the playground.

anotherdayyetanothernickame Thu 17-Jul-08 21:59:19

Agree totally HG - it's a lot like sex education - if you introduce the idea in an age-appropriate way early on it will be less stigmatised and just something that happens.

HonoriaGlossop Thu 17-Jul-08 22:03:30

yes anotherday - and it's surprising how early it starts! I don't know how some people say "I wonder when to have 'the talk' with my 7 year old child" as my DS was asking the 'how was I made' questions at about 2!

PatsyCline Thu 17-Jul-08 22:21:54

I'm with you on the honesty issue. We knew that we would be very lucky if DD2 lived as she was born with a serious birth defect and I wanted to prepare my DD1 for that possiblity. She was a very young five. I used a book called "Frog and the Birdsong". Luckily DD2 is very much with us, but my DD1 has what I think is a very healthy attitude towards death as a result of that period. My DD's grandparents are all still with us but getting on in years and I want to prepare them a little for the inevitable loss that will come.

Mummyloveslucy, I had a relationship with my great grandma just like your DD's with hers. She was 100 when she died and I used to use her black walking aid as a microphone to perform my songs. I adored her and was very sad when she died but I am very happy to have memories of her and I understood that it was her time. I have a beautiful photograph of her as a young woman at the turn of the century (she was born in 1863!) and it makes me really happy to be able to say that I knew her. She was wonderful. smile


HonoriaGlossop Thu 17-Jul-08 22:25:32

WOW, patsy, that's amazing to have a direct link back to Victorian times like that; how magical!

poppypoppet123 Thu 17-Jul-08 22:51:07

I lost someone very close to me last year to cancer so we knew when the end was near,at the time dc were 5 and 3. They came with me at least twice a week to see her and always spoke to her on the phone. I tried to explian to them what was going to happen but they never seemed to fully understand i took them for one last visit before she became to ill and they did understand that they would never see her again. They liked the idea that she was going to heaven and asked if she would look after their rabbit. It is very hard trying to talk to young children about things like this.

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